The World and Everything in It — December 16, 2019

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Good morning!

The Supreme Court considers who is liable for the cleanup costs after an oil spill when the person who caused the accident is unknown?

GOLDSTEIN: Someone is going to be strictly liable. It is inevitable. We’re just trying to figure out who it is.

NICK EICHER, HOST: That’s ahead on Legal Docket.

Also on the Monday Moneybeat, armistice day on the trade war. 

Plus, the WORLD Radio History Book. Today, the 75th anniversary of the beginning of the Battle of the Bulge.

ROOSEVELT: Our men have fought with indescribable and unforgettable gallantry under the most difficult conditions.

And Trillia Newbell on the hope that is Christmas.

REICHARD: It’s Monday, December 16th. This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Mary Reichard.

EICHER: And I’m Nick Eicher. Good morning!

REICHARD: Up next, Kent Covington with today’s news.

KENT COVINGTON, NEWS ANCHOR: House braces for impeachment vote this week » Battle lines are drawn as Washington braces for this week’s expected vote to impeach President Trump. 

The Democratic-controlled House planned to vote Wednesday on two articles of impeachment. 

House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler once again stated the Democrats’ case on Sunday. He told ABC’s This Week

NADLER: This president conspired—sought foreign interference in the 2016 election. He is openly seeking foreign interference in the 2020 election, and he poses a continuing threat to our national security. 

The impeachment vote is expected to split the House chamber down party lines, but Democrats should have more than enough votes. 

It will likely be a different story in the Senate, where Republicans have the numbers to acquit. GOP Texas Senator Ted Cruz said Democrats clearly failed to justify their case against the president. 

CRUZ: I think this is the beginning of the end of this show trail we’ve seen in the House. I think it’s going to come to the Senate. We’re going to have fair proceedings, and then it’s not going anywhere because the facts aren’t there. 

Cruz said the Senate will allow the president every opportunity to call witnesses and defend himself. 

Democratic rep. reportedly set to switch parties » Meantime, one House Democrat who has been very critical of the impeachment push is reportedly planning to switch parties. 

Freshman Blue Dog Democrat Jeff Van Drew was one of two Democrats who broke ranks back in October and voted “no” on formalizing the impeachment inquiry. 

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said Sunday…

MCCARTHY: I want to tell Jeff Van Drew that he is welcome in the Republican Party, not just by me but by our conference, and we would support him, and we would welcome him to join. 

Van Drew represents a purple district in New Jersey and if he remains in the Democratic party, he would likely face a stiff primary challenge from candidates to his left. 

Mother fights to keep baby on life support » The mother of a 10-month old girl on life support in a Fort Worth hospital will have a few more weeks to fight for her life.

A Texas judge has given the mother more time to find different doctors for her daughter before allowing the hospital to take her off life support. 

Tinslee Lewis was born prematurely on February 1st and has been in the hospital ever since with a rare heart defect and chronic lung disease. Doctors at Cook Children’s Medical Center placed her on a ventilator after she stopped breathing in early July. 

They say there’s nothing more they can do, that the baby is in pain, and that continuing treatment only prolongs her suffering.

The judge said she would decide the matter by January 2nd.

Death toll rises from New Zealand volcano amid search for missing victims » New Zealand’s White Island volcano claimed another life over the weekend. A 16th person died at a hospital in Sidney, where numerous victims are receiving treatment for severe burns.  

On Sunday, a helicopter landed on the island carrying two four-person search teams. They scoured part of the island for the bodies of the last two victims but came up empty. Deputy police commissioner Mike Clement told reporters…

CLEMENT: Everyone went out there absolutely desperate to find bodies and return them to loved ones. In terms of probability, I guess we were probably thinking that since one was in the water that so would two, but we are always hopeful. 

The island is still awash in toxic ash and gases. So members of the search teams each wore heavy protective clothing and a breathing apparatus that allowed them to search for only 75 minutes.

Jumanji sequel tops weekend box office » At the weekend box office Jumanji: The Next Level roared out the gate. 

TRAILER: Wait, we’re in the wrong bodies! I came back and things actually got worse!

The comedy sequel hauled in $60 million in its opening weekend. That bumped Frozen II to second place with another $19 million. But worldwide, Frozen II has now crossed the $1 billion mark. 

A disappointing debut for Hollywood’s retelling of the falsely accused ‘96 Olympics bomber. Richard Jewel took in just $5 million for the weekend. That despite strong reviews, including one from our own Megan Basham. 

You can read that review and others at

I’m Kent Covington. Straight ahead: who should pay for oil spill cleanup costs? Plus, a Reformation hero you probably haven’t heard much about. This is The World and Everything in It.

NICK EICHER: We’re back for another week of The World and Everything in It for a Monday. Today is the 16th of December, 2019. 

Good morning to you, I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD: And I’m Mary Reichard. And good morning to you!

First, a little housekeeping is in order, Nick. We are now ten weeks into the new Supreme Court term and that means the justices are starting to hand down opinions. To keep it all straight, we’ll leave Legal Docket dedicated to oral arguments, and devote time on Tuesdays to report decisions. We’ll add days if necessary. And if a particularly relevant case comes down, say involving religious liberty, we’ll report that next day.

EICHER: All right. Good plan. Well, let’s now get into this week’s oral arguments. 

The first case today asks: who pays for cleanup of an oil spill caused by an anchor from an abandoned ship?

Here are the facts from 2004.

An oil refiner, CITGO, chartered an oil tanker owned by Frescati Shipping Company. The tanker would deliver crude oil from Venezuela to New Jersey. 

Frescati made the 1,900 mile journey and prepared to dock the tanker at a refinery. But then it struck that anchor on the Delaware River, and the collision caused a big spill: more than six-thousand barrels of crude oil. Cleanup cost: $143 million. That’s almost $25,000 per barrel of $38-a-barrel oil.

REICHARD: Federal law designates the ship owner as the initial party responsible for cleanup, so Frescati paid for that. Then the federal government reimbursed Frescati for more than half of its outlay, per that same law. Then both those parties, Frescati and the United States, sued CITGO for a portion of it.

What followed was years-long litigation. Different lower courts found CITGO not liable, then liable, then only partly so. 

The question for the Supreme Court is whether CITGO guaranteed that the ship would have a safe place to arrive in New Jersey. Or, alternatively,  if CITGO just agreed that it would use due diligence to ensure the ship would be safe.

CITGO’s lawyer, Carter Phillips, argued his client did all that it could reasonably be expected to do: use due diligence to choose a safe destination for the ship to dock. When you hear him refer to “the charterer,” he’s talking about CITGO.

PHILLIPS: The charterer is in the least effective position to prevent the injuries that will arise in these circumstances. And it makes no sense to put it on the backs of the party least capable of dealing with the problem because it creates insurance risks,  it imposes unlimited potential liability, which this Court has consistently recognized.

Everyone agrees that CITGO didn’t know and had no reason to know the anchor was in the river. It wasn’t navigating the tanker and it didn’t maintain the river.

What lawyer Phillips for CITGO pointed out was that the shipowner can still seek exoneration because of who was truly negligent:

PHILLIPS: The third-party here, the person who left the 
anchor in that waterway, didn’t  identify it, didn’t tell anybody about it, 
that’s the person who should be liable.
We can’t find that person. My client’s already spent more than $100 million on that fund. It is not of equitable result to impose another $140 million solely on the party least capable of avoiding this particular problem.

For Frescati the ship owner, though, CITGO chose the  docking site. The contract has an implied warranty it says that holds CITGO responsible for damages related to that location. So the court should interpret the contract in a way that makes CITGO strictly liable. 

That seemed to carry the day. Listen to this exchange between Phillips and Justice Brett Kavanaugh:

KAVANAUGH: Back to the text,  it does say “safe place or wharf which shall be designated and procured by the charterer.” … So, if it turns out not to be safe,  just as a matter of logic, it hasn’t designated or procured a safe place or wharf. 

PHILLIPS: Well… it seems to me the question, Justice Kavanaugh, really is, does safe mean that you…will assure that regardless of what  happens, … if it gets hit by a meteor, …if somebody, a vandal, goes… on the ship while it’s in a berth and blows it up, that that’s all on the charterer? Did the charterer assume all of those obligations? 

KAVANAUGH: Well, it says designated or procured, and procured a safe place. And it doesn’t say usually safe place. 
If it turns out not to be safe, then…

CITGO’s Phillips pointed to maritime law experts Gilmore and Black to bolster his case. But lawyer for the ship owner, Thomas Goldstein, thought Gilmore and Black are kind of old hat by now. 

Listen to this exchange with Goldstein and Justices Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan. Goldstein starts: 

GOLDSTEIN: We have to realize when you have a situation of unknown and not reasonably knowable damages, someone is going to be strictly liable. It is inevitable. We’re just trying to figure out who it is. Our point is, he picked the contract, and the contract said, “it’ll be safe,” rather than the contract saying—

BREYER: But Gilmore and Black think that the language is ambiguous. Is that why they recommended the other?

GOLDSTEIN: Well, Gilmore — let’s just be clear. Gilmore and Black, written some 40 some years ago —

BREYER: Yeah, I knew Gilmore and Black in ’75. I should’ve asked them. (laughter) 

KAGAN: (later) …I mean, Mr. Goldstein, 
would it be fair to say Gilmore and Black were incredibly smart men? There are two kinds of treatises in the world. There’s the kind of treatise that just sets out the law. And there’s the kind of treatise that says we are incredibly smart men and we could do it better.

GOLDSTEIN: Yes. (Laughter.)

KAGAN: Don’t you think Gilmore and Black is the second kind of treatise?

Then Justice Samuel Alito jousted with Goldstein some more:

ALITO: Well, if we thought that the — the text was perfectly ambiguous, couldn’t we say we are incredibly smart people, and we think — (Laughter.) — that the better rule is the Gilmore and Black rule?

GOLDSTEIN: Justice Alito, I learned a long time ago that if the question is could the Supreme Court do X, the answer is yes.  (Laughter.)

The justices seemed to lean in favor of holding CITGO liable, based on the plain language of the contract. Harsh as that is, the lesson for the rest of us is to write a tight contract with liability clearly laid out.

This next case today involves IBM employees who invested their 401(k)s in company stock. Those plans are governed by ERISA, the Employee Retirement Income Security Act. 

Here, IBM employees say fund managers failed to do their jobs. They say managers are insiders with a fiduciary duty to protect retirement savings from fraud. 

After it came out that the microchip-making portion of IBM  was overvalued, company stock significantly dropped. Managers had not disclosed the overvaluation, nor had they prevented participants from buying it. 

So, the investor employees sued the fund managers. The question before the Supreme Court is fairly narrow: what must the employees lay out in the initial lawsuit?

The fund managers say ERISA doesn’t require them to disclose insider corporate information. 

Justice Alito seemed to agree.

ALITO: Do you think that it is workable, practical, to require an insider fiduciary to determine whether the disclosure of inside information to the public at a particular point in time will do more harm than good? … It just seems to me, in that situation, the fiduciary has to make a very complicated calculation.

Complicated or not, lawyer for the disgruntled employees argued insiders are in a better position to know when things go awry. Then they can act to protect the plan participants. He argued the court ought not create different standards for different fiduciaries. 

Yet fund manager lawyer Paul Clement seemed to have the upper hand. ERISA law isn’t the solution to this problem. Securities law is. And in typical Clement fashion, he pounded on that in his close:

CLEMENT: One thing I want to be emphatic that I disagree with my friend on the other side is he says that the reason that we want these insiders to serve as fiduciaries is so they can be sort of canaries in the coal mine, they can take early action based on their unique access to inside information. That is absolutely wrong.  All these funds are set up to make sure that doesn’t happen. Because if that did happen, these would all be latent security violations.

This area of the law is muddled and confusing. That’s why it comes up so often at the high court. Just this term, the justices will hear three ERISA disputes. 

So I won’t guess how the justices will decide.

Alright, final case today. 

If you’ve ever looked up a state law, maybe you’ve seen little notes or commentaries that go along with it. A summary of the law, or maybe the facts of a case where that law was applied. 

But can those “annotations” be copyrighted? That’s the dispute in this case between the state of Georgia and a publisher who bought all 186 volumes of the annotated statutes, scanned them and then put it all online. 

Georgia sued for copyright violation. It says it owns those annotations.

Now, everyone agrees that the law itself cannot be copyrighted.  The idea is a law that isn’t public, isn’t really a law. People have to know about it. That’s why Georgia puts the statutes without annotations online so everyone has access to the law for free.

But the annotations are written by a private firm, per contract with the state government.

Justice Neil Gorsuch wondered whether that makes any difference in this exchange with Joshua Johnson, lawyer for Georgia:

GORSUCH: Why would we allow the official law enacted by a legislature … equivalent of being approved by a judge in annotations … why would we allow the official law to be hidden behind a paywall?

JOHNSON: So I don’t think that adopting our position would cause the official law to be hidden behind a paywall. First, the law is available on Lexis’s website. And also, PRO is free to cut —

GORSUCH: But not the official annotations that the legislature has in some fashion or another given its official approval to.

Justice Gorsuch making the point that elected officials in one way or another are involved in approving the annotations, despite hiring a private contractor to write them. So that makes those words public domain in the same way the actual law is public domain.

But the state of Georgia argues if private companies can’t get paid for writing annotations, there’ll be fewer of them. And that hurts everybody.

My guess is that the majority of justices will say that because the annotations themselves do not have the force of law, they can be protected by copyright.

And that’s this week’s Legal Docket!

MARY REICHARD: Coming next on The World and Everything in It, the Monday Moneybeat.

NICK EICHER: President Trump managed last week to erase two long-running uncertainties holding back the economy: one, an unratified North American trade agreement, and, two, the China trade war.

The trade-war armistice came just days before it was set to escalate with new tariffs on $160 billion worth of goods Americans source almost exclusively from China: goods like laptops, smartphones, video-game devices, clothing, and children’s toys.

But those import taxes are not taking effect, and that’s thanks to a nine-chapter agreement announced on Friday. Other U.S. tariffs put in place earlier will start to roll back.

For its part, China agreed to delay retaliatory tariffs on American cars. It also pledged to stop demanding that American companies divulge trade and technology secrets in exchange for access to the Chinese market. Beijing also committed to the purchase of an estimated $40 billion in American farm products over the next couple of years.

This is not a resolution of every complaint President Trump had made about China: he’s still not satisfied with government subsidies for Chinese industry and Beijing’s alleged currency manipulation. Those disagreements will have to await the next round of trade negotiations.

REICHARD: Also last week, Democrats controlling Congress said they’re okay with President Trump’s new trade pact for North America. So is the labor group AFL-CIO and the business group the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

The U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, the USMCA, is now as certain to pass in the Democratic-controlled House as are the two articles of impeachment. Unlike impeachment, though, the USMCA has a chance to pass the Senate and take effect.

EICHER: A third straight winning week for the index of blue-chip stocks, the Standard & Poor’s 500. Both the S&P 500 and the tech-heavy Nasdaq indexes set record highs on Thursday and Friday of this week, following the trade truce. They ended the week up seven-tenths and nine-tenths respectively. The Dow Jones Industrials picked up four-tenths of a percentage point. The Dow sits just one-tenth of a percent off its all-time high set last month.

REICHARD: As we talked about last week, the Federal Reserve acted as expected. That is, the central bank decided to leave interest rates where they are. And that federal-funds rate is now in a range of one-and-a-half to one-and-three-quarters percent. That’s very low when you take into account the Fed’s history of setting rates. In the five decades starting in the 1960s, the federal-funds rate averaged almost 6 percent. 

Big shocks to the economy prompted the Fed to slash the rate: the 9/11 terror attacks, for example, and the Great Recession of 2007. From about 2008 on, the central bank maintained the rate at near zero during the entirety of President Obama’s two terms.

EICHER: The Obama economy bounced along in fits and starts. It alternated between gangbusters 5 percent growth rates and periods of no growth or economic contraction. It didn’t grow steadily until about the beginning of 2016. 

After the election of President Trump, the Fed steadily increased rates, in search of a rate considered neutral: that is, one that neither inhibits nor stimulates the economy. 

Congress has given the Fed a dual mandate: set monetary policy in such a way (1) as to help promote maximum employment and (2) to achieve price stability.

The belief is that the two can work against each other: policies that achieve low unemployment can provoke too-high inflation, so when businesses are hiring, the Fed tends to push up interest rates to cool the economy and stave off inflation.

But now the Fed seems to be coming around to the view that inflation will remain tame, even as the economy keeps growing and the job market remains solid. At his news conference last week, Fed chairman Jay Powell said as much.

POWELL: Inflation is barely moving up, notwithstanding that unemployment is at 50-year lows and expected to remain there. And by the way it’s a good thing that you know, we think we’ve learned that unemployment can remain at quite low levels for an extended period of time without unwanted upward pressure on inflation. In fact, we need some upward pressure in inflation to get back to 2 percent.

As if on cue, the Labor Department released its producer price index, a reliable gauge of inflation. This is a survey of prices at the wholesale level, before goods actually reach the consumer. The index was flat November over October, and year-on-year, prices are up just 1.1 percent—indicating as Chairman Powell said, that inflation remains well under control.

And that is today’s Monday Moneybeat.

NICK EICHER: Alright, you know we sometimes make copy errors—typos. But our editor in chief distinguishes typos from thought-os. This story is about a thought-o.

A county tax assessor’s office in Utah overvalued a single home and the error is going to be laid at the feet of the taxpayer.

Here’s what happened: A home worth about $300,000 was mistakenly valued at almost $1 billion, and local officials were elated by the supposed tax-revenue windfall.

So officials spent it—as they do—and guess what, it blew a $6 million hole in the local budget.

All because of a typo that changed a $300,000 home into a $1 billion home. The assessor explained that a member of the staff may have dropped a phone on the keyboard, and that’s what happened.

I have a question: How does that slip through the cracks? The most expensive real estate deal in the entire state was a sprawling ranch outside Park City that went for $32.5 million last month. 

That’s a far cry from a billion!

So again, typo or thought-o? To cover the shortfall, local officials plan to, you guessed it, raise property taxes over the next three years.

It’s The World and Everything in It.

NICK EICHER: Today is Monday, December 19th. Thanks for making WORLD Radio part of your day. Good morning. I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD: And I’m Mary Reichard. Next up on The World and Everything in It: the WORLD Radio History Book.

Today, a deadly winter flood in the Pacific Northwest. Plus, the 75th anniversary of the largest American battle of World War II.

EICHER: But first, an unsung hero of the Reformation who knew Martin Luther better than anyone. Here’s Paul Butler.

PAUL BUTLER, REPORTER: In 1504, a young girl named Katherina enters a Benedictine cloister in central Germany. She later becomes a nun. But as a young woman, she begins to question the monastic life. Audio here from the documentary: Katie Luther: The Morning Star of Wittenberg.

STJERNA: We don’t know exactly what Katerina heard or learned, but she must have been aware of Martin Luthers’ criticism of the monastic life. And the revelation that justification comes from faith alone. You don’t have to live in a monastery to do that. You can live a holy life outside—you can get married, have children…

Katherina van Bora eventually contacts Martin Luther in 1523. She and a handful of other nuns want his help escaping their convent. When they arrive in Whittenburg, their families refuse to take them back—fearing the church. So Luther helps them find husbands. Eventually, only Katherina remains. After a few failed matches, she sets her heart on Martin Luther himself. He concedes and they are married in 1525. Kirsi Stjerna is a Lutheran historian. 

STJERNA: They have a big celebration. A parade through the town. Students are there. Protestors and jeerers…

Some friends worry that their union will undermine the Reformation, as the Catholic Church claims that the reformers merely want to avoid celibacy. But Luther says he’s doing it to spite the devil and the pope and to model God’s intended order. 

What begins as a marriage of convenience, grows into a deep and loving relationship. Luther calls Katherina his morning star. She manages the home, runs their family brewery, and bears six children. Luther welcomes her into his work, and she freely speaks her mind—both in support and occasionally even challenge. 

When Luther dies in 1546, Katherina loses all support. The outbreak of war also means she must leave her home and lands. The next few years are physically challenging, but she remains hopeful. In 1552, Katharina falls from her wagon and never recovers. She dies of pneumonia on December 20th, 1552, at age 53. 

STJERNA: She symbolizes the sacredness of everyday life. And she sees holiness in that, seeing that as a form of ministry. That was new. That was pure gospel for women. 

Next, December 16th, 1944.

NEWSREEL AUDIO: At 5:30am, flames erupted along an 85-mile front…

The open salvos of the Battle of the Bulge.

NEWSREEL AUDIO: This operation, Hitler believed, would destroy more than 30 American and British divisions. He believed it would be the beginning of the end of the Allies.

The Germans hope to cut-off the Allied port of Antwerp in Belgium. The surprise attack turns out to be the last major German offensive campaign on the Western Front.

Despite a harsh winter storm, the lack of warm clothes, and dwindling supplies,  the Allies hold on. The battle lasts five weeks. U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt:

FDR: Our men have fought with indescribable and unforgettable gallantry under the most difficult conditions. The high-tide of this German attack was reached two days after Christmas…

The “Bulge” was one of the bloodiest single battles the U.S. fought during the war. As for the Germans, they lost so many experienced men—and so much equipment—that it proved impossible to launch another attack on Allied forces after. That makes “The Battle of the Bulge” the last significant engagement of the war with Germany.

And finally, December 18th, 1964:

NEWSREEL AUDIO: The worst floods to hit the Pacific Northwest in man’s memory. It swept across five states…a sweeping panorama of destruction…

A few weeks earlier, the area experienced a deep freeze and heavy snowfall in the mountains. When the temperatures returned to normal, the snow and ice began to melt—overwhelming streams and rivers by mid-December.  

Then, a weather system known as the “pineapple express,” brings heavy rainfall off the pacific ocean. Storms dump as much as 15 inches of rain within 24 hours. As the ground is still mostly frozen, the water has nowhere to go, causing extreme runoff and destructive erosion.

NEWSREEL AUDIO: Again, there were tales of heroic rescues. Of volunteers risking their lives to save strangers…

Waves of wet weather extended the so called “Christmas flood” through the end of January. The rushing water levels entire towns, leaving thousands homeless. It results in 47 deaths. Flood damage covers about 200,000 square miles—a region roughly the size of the country of Spain. Damage tops more than $540 million. 

NEWSREEL AUDIO: An indomitable spirit is the secret ingredient that will help the Pacific Northwest rebuild from the ruins of disaster…

That’s this week’s WORLD Radio History Book. I’m Paul Butler.

PAUL BUTLER: One more thing before I go. As much as I enjoy the History Book each week, there’s something else I get to do that I love even more. As the Feature’s Editor for WORLD Radio, I get to work one-on-one with reporters every week. 

We talk about story ideas, consider creative angles, brainstorm who to interview, and figure out how the scriptures should inform our story. Then, after the reporter returns from the field, we assemble it, together. 

And honestly, for me, that’s when the fun begins! We listen to it, and re-listen to it. We figure out where it needs more sound, identify weak spots, wrestle with theological implications and unintended messages. Frankly, sometimes those sessions are difficult, but our stories always improve as we work through the process.

It’s only then, after hours of planning, writing, rewriting, and evaluating, that you get to hear the final product. And if we’ve done our jobs well, you should enter into the story without thinking about what it took to tell it. 

In my role, I get to touch many of our features in some way. Every morning, when I listen to the program while walking the dog, I feel a certain God-given satisfaction for my small part in making each story possible. 

So now, can I state the obvious? The same is true for you. We have tens of thousands of daily listeners, but some of you do more than that. You give, and when you do, you join a team of people who make it possible for everyone else to hear it. While most will never know your role, you can listen each day and feel that same satisfaction—you touched each of our stories and made them possible. 

This is WORLD’s December Giving Drive. Would you take a moment and visit and make a year-end gift to help keep the work going? 

I’m Paul Butler and I’m grateful for anything you can do to support sound journalism, grounded in God’s Word. Thanks so much.

MARY REICHARD: Today is Monday, December 16th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Mary Reichard.

NICK EICHER: And I’m Nick Eicher. Here’s WORLD Radio commentator Trillia Newbell on the hope that is Christmas.

TRILLIA NEWBELL, COMMENTATOR: The Christmas season is upon us! For my kids, that means the anticipation of gifts. They begin making their list on December 26th—for the following year. They anticipate it and talk about it for months and months. 

As the excitement builds and builds, almost every year on Christmas morning at around 5:00 a.m. we hear the knock on the door. The wait is over and they are ready—no rest for the weary. It’s Christmas morning! 

They rush to the living room, we divide up the gifts, and they begin to open.

Each gift is met with various reactions—some more exciting than others. But one thing never fails to happen: After about an hour, they are off doing something completely not with the gifts they anticipated all year long. All that waiting, all that longing, just to move on to what they already have! 

That’s the nature of earthly gifts. Although generally wonderful, they aren’t satisfying. They end up breaking or not working at all. Maybe they are enjoyable for the moment, but after a while, our fickle hearts tend to want something else, something new. Earthly gifts often leave us wanting. 

There is, however, One gift that is satisfying. One gift that keeps on giving. One gift that will never disappoint, will sustain us, is always available to us. And the gift is not a thing; it’s a person—Jesus.

Isaiah prophesied about this gift: “For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). 

Isaiah prophesied of a baby who would save the world. This was a surprising and amazing announcement because it was coming to a rebellious people. 

That baby would grow into a man who would perfectly live on this earth, die on a cross for all who would believe, and defeat death.  

Jesus is our Emmanuel, which means God with us. And because we know this incarnate One, we can join the choir of angels in proclaiming this great gift. 

Ponder these words to the oft-sung Christmas hymn:

Hark! the herald angels sing,

“Glory to the new-born King!

Peace on earth, and mercy mild,

God and sinners reconciled.”

Joyful, all ye nations, rise,

Join the triumph of the skies;

With the angelic host proclaim,

“Christ is born in Bethlehem.”

Hark! the herald angels sing,

“Glory to the new-born King!

A baby wrapped up in mercy and grace is the greatest miracle and gift of Christmas. And we all need the hope that he brings. We need Jesus. 

In a broken world, no holiday season will be perfectly blissful. There will likely be at some point disappointment and discouragement. But because we have the greatest gift, we can rejoice. And that is why it can truly be a merry Christmas. 

For WORLD Radio, I’m Trillia Newbell.

NICK EICHER: Tomorrow: some pregnancy centers are starting to offer birth control. That’s a shift in strategy for the pro-life movement. And as you might expect, it’s causing some controversy. We’ll tell you what’s behind the move.

And, a modern-day prodigal son story.

That and more tomorrow. 

I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD: And I’m Mary Reichard.

The World and Everything in It comes to you from WORLD Radio.

WORLD’s mission is biblically objective journalism that informs, educates, and inspires.

God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 

Go now, in grace and peace.

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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