We might recall as well two modern statements: Theologian J.I. Packer's three-word summary of the Bible, "God saves sinners," and writer Ann Lamott's "I don't understand much, but I understand how entirely doomed I am without God." Doomed without the event we celebrate on Christmas.
I'm a Christian because 33 years ago, in late fall darkness, I began to glimpse a great light. I know of some desperate people, from teenagers to octogenarians, who sit in darkness and need that light. If you're a conservative Christian, here's a question: Will a drug-user, thief or liar come to you or to me with the expectation of being treated with gentleness and respect? How about a homosexual, a radical feminist or an atheist?
It's hard in our media culture to treat others with gentleness and respect -- that doesn't play as well on television as anger and sarcasm do. But when we're tempted to abandon the biblical injunction, we should recall words that may have become over-familiar: "Peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled."