The Christmas spirit is again spreading over the world. A spirit of good will seems to permeate all hearts at this time of the year. Bright windows and smiling faces are everywhere. It is as though we have slipped on a magic cloak that has been put away in moth balls in some secret closet, to be brought out and worn only on this annual occasion, on this day that is usually noted in red letters on most calendars. It is in a sense a real red-letter day.
True, there is much that ought not to be. Commercialism often clouds the holiday sky. But we must not lose the blessing of the good will that is ours to enjoy by seeing only the evil.
To say the very least, it is difficult to make a just comparison between things celestial and things terrestrial, but surely there is no other season on earth that comes so close to men's ideals of heavenly fellowship as the Christmas season. Where can we find a better example of what man's attitude to man should be than what is often revealed on Christmas Day? Few emotions equal the uplifting, generous, genial spirit that mellows the hearts of so many during this holiday period.
E. C. Baird has analyzed the activity of this elusive Christmas spirit in the following words:
I enter the home of poverty, causing pale-faced children to open their eyes wide, in pleased wonder.
I cause the miser's clutched hand to relax, and thus paint a bright spot on his soul.
I cause the aged to renew their youth and to laugh in the old, glad way.
I keep romance alive in the heart of childhood, and brighten sleep with dreams woven of magic.
I cause eager feet to climb dark stairways with filled baskets, leaving behind hearts amazed at the goodness of the world.
I cause the prodigal to pause a moment on his wild, wasteful way, and send to anxious love some little token that releases glad tears—tears which wash away the hard lines of sorrow.
I enter dark prison cells, reminding scarred manhood of what might have been, and pointing forward to good days yet to be.
I come softly into the still, white home of pain, and lips that are too weak to speak just tremble in silent, eloquent gratitude.
In a thousand ways I cause the weary world to look up into the face of God, and for a little moment forget the things that are small and wretched.
I AM THE CHRISTMAS SPIRIT!
One day two farmers met. The younger farmer who habitually looked harassed and worried said, "I don't understand why farmer John gets along so well. He is always happy, never seems to worry, never works harder than I do, I'm sure, yet the work he does produces not only money but contentment and happiness."
The older farmer, who had known farmer John since boyhood days, replied with a smile, "Well, I'll let you figure it out for yourself, but I reckon it's Christmas every day with Farmer John. I saw him in town yesterday with a load of potatoes. He couldn't sell them to the stores because of an overrun, so he went right to the houses with them. At first he asked a dollar and a half a bushel for them and sold nearly half his load. Then he found that other farmers were selling their potatoes for a dollar and a quarter, so he promptly sold the rest of his at the lower price. They all seemed to want Farmer John's potatoes. With all his potatoes sold, do you think he went home satisfied? Not Farmer John. He drove back to every one who had paid him a dollar and a half and returned the extra quarter, and he handed over a couple of big red apples to boot. Oh, every day is Christmas Day with Farmer John. That's why!"
Yes, there is something better than the observance of Christmas Day, and that is living the Christmas way every day—which brings to mind a poem with a simple but direct message that was authored by Wilbur B. Nesbit and is entitled "Always Christmas."
Used to think that Christmas was nothin' but a day To get a lot o' presents an' to give a lot away. Shouted, "Merry Christmas," an' helped to trim the tree—
Just a day o' Christmas was all that I could see. But since I found that Christmas is more than any day,
Christmas came to our house—an' never went away.
Struck me of a sudden that friendliness an' cheer Was meant to be on duty more than one day in the year.
If we're happy Christmas, why not the day before, An' the day that follows, an' so on, evermore? Got to thinkin' of it—an' that is why I say, Christmas came to our house—an' never went away.
Used to think that Christmas was nothin' but a date,
Till I learned that truly you would never have to wait,
But that it's the spirit that never stays apart, If you let it find you, an' keep it in your heart. Since I found that Christmas is more than just a day, Christmas came to our home—an' never went away.
Henry van Dyke adds to this the searching question:
Are you willing to forget what you have done for other people, and to remember what other people have done for you; to ignore what the world owes you, and to think what you owe the world; to put your rights in the background, and your duties in the middle distance, and your chances to do a little more than your duty in the foreground; to see that your fellow men are just as real as you are, and try to look behind their faces to their hearts, hungry for joy; to own that probably the only good reason for your existence is not what you are going to get out of life, but what you are going to give to life; to close your book of complaints against the management of the universe, and look around you for a place where you can sow a few seeds of happiness—are you willing to do these things even for a day? Then you can keep Christmas.
Are you willing to stoop down and consider the needs and the desires of little children; to remember the weakness and loneliness of people who are growing old; to stop asking how much your friends love you, and ask yourself whether you love them enough; to bear in mind the things that other people have to bear in their hearts; to try to understand what those who live in the same house with you really want, without waiting for theta to tell you; to trim your lamp so that it will give more light and less smoke, and to carry it in front so that your shadow will fall behind you; to make a grave for your ugly thoughts, and a garden for your good thoughts, with the gate open—are you willing to do these things even for a day? Then you can keep Christmas.
Are you willing to believe that love is the strongest thing in the world—stronger than hate, stronger than evil, stronger than death—and that the blessed life which began in Bethlehem nineteen hundred years ago is the image and brightness of the Eternal Love? Then you can keep Christmas.
And if you keep it for a day, why not always? But you can never keep it alone.
No, not alone. You can never keep it alone! Far too many in the world are on the wrong scent of holiday happiness. Albert W. Beaven says:
The real Christmas experience for any one is the turning on of the light within, which comes from the spirit of the indwelling Christ. It is still His incoming that makes the difference between a darkened inn and a glorified stable. Before we go on with our Christmas preparation, let us ask ourselves whether the real Christmas has come to us; whether what we are going through is just a form, a bartering of gifts, a forced holiday, or whether we have the real experience that makes Christmas a joy and not a bore. Christ taken in and then given out, that makes it a genuine Christmas for us and for others; for "God shined in our hearts" that the light might be passed on. All about us are those who wait for our coming: lonely people, discouraged people, heartsick people living starved lives, with so little of love and joy. Christmas opens our eyes and challenges us to let our light shine outside our own little circle and give cheer where it is needed most, to the cheerless, the lonely, the destitute.—"The Luminous Christ." *
So, friend, let us hold fast to the true spirit of Christmas. Let us keep it alive in our hearts and minds Why not permit it to radiate its genial, refreshing, restoring warmth to all with whom we come in contact? Let all our Yuletide greetings be in the spirit of Him who left all men a divine rule for achieving peace and good will. "All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them."
Therefore, with William Lytle we would say—
Have you any old grudge you would like to pay,
Any wrong laid up from a by-gone day?
Gather them now and lay them away
When Christmas comes.
Hard thoughts are heavy to carry, my friend,
And life is short from beginning to end;
Be kind to yourself, leave nothing to mend
When Christmas comes.
—"When Christmas Comes." *
* From Worship Resources for the Christian Tear, edited by Charles L. Wallis. Reprinted by permission of Harper and Brothers.