Author: Samuel M. Zwemer was a pioneer missionary among Arabs along the Persian Gulf. His later career was spent writing, teaching and mobilizing for missions among Muslims while he was based in Egypt for many years, and later at Princeton Theological Seminary.
While Samuel Zwemer was an extremely prolific writer throughout his career, only a few of his works have as much devotional value as The Glory of the Manger. It was the second published in a triad of devotional books, which are quite similar despite the time gaps:
- The Glory of the Cross (1927)
- The Glory of the Manger (1940)
- The Glory of the Empty Tomb (1947)
Zwemer was a voracious reader and an indefatigable worker, and it shows through even in his devotional works; that is to say, even his “devotional” works are very academic in tone. In several chapters, he takes to task the naysayers and philosophical materialists of his day who sought to deny the virgin birth of Christ. After these doctrinal defenses and logical forays, so common in Zwemer’s writings, he does move on to more applicable content!
Although defenses of Christian creeds often feel like watching someone hold their breath until they turn blue, Zwemer presents here quite a bit of evidence for the historicity of Jesus and the reliability of the New Testament. The appendix to Chapter III, on the “Witness of Pagan Writers to the Historicity of Jesus Christ,” is extremely interesting.
When he’s not presenting evidence for our faith, Zwemer gets to a masterful handling of Scripture.
The poetry and hymns presented at the beginning of each chapter—as it was in The Glory of the Cross—include a number of hymns that will be both fresh and fascinating to modern readers, chosen as they were from his wide reading across centuries of Christian tradition. Some may skip these few verses as if they were filler, but if you take a moment to read them, you will find that they are filled with treasure new and old, such as this four-hundred-year-old verse, taken almost at random, from Giles Fletcher:
“See how small room my Infant Lord doth take,
Whom all the world is not enough to hold.
Who of His years, or of His age hath told
Never such Age so young, never a Child so old!”
It was characteristic of the time period to associate Christmas with doctrinal attacks on the virgin birth, as seen here in Zwemer’s Glory of the Manger, and Lockyer’s 1942 book The Christ of Christmas (material reprinted and expanded in All about God in Christ). Today that war has gone cold, so the polemical tone around this issue seems overblown. Nonetheless, Zwemer gives a wealth of historical and doctrinal resources in even as small a package as this book.
“The Incarnation was the greatest miracle of human history. And it is true. God who fills the universe was born a Babe.” (loc. 65)