Alfred Carlton Gilbert, known more lovingly as A.C. Gilbert, was also known for breaking the world record for chin-ups in 1900, the distance record for the running long dive in 1902, and two records in pole vaulting. In fact, he even invented the pole vault box. Gilbert also tied for gold with fellow American Edward Cook at the 1908 Summer Olympics in London for the same sport. Perhaps you never heard of him, and that might be because he is remembered for something else all together!
Yes, A. C. Gilbert, later on in life, was a toy maker. Turning his back on becoming a doctor, he loved to make toys, and watch the little faces light up! In fact, back during WW 1, he became known as “the man who saved Christmas.” How did that happen? Well, in 1913, he invented the Erector Set, to which my own childhood, back in the 50’s and 60’s, owes him a debt of gratitude—I loved it! And his toy company took off like a rocket! He was known as a caring and compassionate employer, always watching out for the welfare and safety of his factory workers and their children. In 1918, when the United States’ Council of National Defense considered a ban on toy production due to the needs of the war, and, at the same time, tried to recruit him to lead the publicity charge, he was quite dismayed. Eventually, he did consent to have his toy factory retooled for the production of armaments. But, when he saw that the plan was actually to do away that year with Christmas altogether, he revolted. He mounted another campaign in Washington, D.C., to reverse the decision in order to bring joy back into the hearts of all Americans while in the midst of a devastating war. There was indeed a time when Christmas almost wasn’t!
Today, as many let the focus be entirely on materialism and greed, the true meaning of Christmas is lost to more and more people and their families. I would like to make very clear that Jesus needs to be the focus—after all, it really is a celebration of His birthday! Actually, all through God’s dealing with His people—both in the Old Testament, as well as the New Testament—there was a danger of losing Christmas. Every time God called someone unto Himself, if that person responded in disobedience, it jeopardized the coming of Jesus at Christmas. An example? Well, very briefly, if Joseph, the patriarch, hadn’t been obedient to the leading of God, the people of God would have died off in a huge world-wide famine and—obviously—Jesus never would have been born. You will find some details on that in these upcoming pages. Be watching for all of the ways that obedience to God brings Jesus into the heart. Please don’t let this be another time when Christmas almost wasn’t!
~ Rev. Roy D. Warren, Jr.