Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Let us Ponder


On the third day of Christmas my true love gave to me
Three French hens
Two turtle doves
And a partridge in a pear tree.


On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me . . . Put a bird on it.:

The third day of Christmas. The song is just beginning. We've hardly begun to feel the increasing quickness of the melody, to laugh at the rattled-off list of symbolic but ludicrous gifts, to grow at all weary of the partridge in the pear tree.

The third day of Christmas. The church is still decked in its yuletide finery. The brilliant crimson of the poinsettias clustered close around the altar has not begun to fade. According to the ecclesiastical calendar we are in the first half of the Octave of the Nativity of Our Lord.

The third day of Christmas. Advent has come to fruition, the wait is over; let the rejoicing commence! And yet...

How many people say "Merry Christmas" in the street? How many green and red decorations, so prominent in the city a week ago, are there in the city today? How many radio stations have packed away the Christmas music for another year and gone back to their old everyday songs?

Now that Santa Claus has come and the presents have all been unwrapped, has all that is worth looking forward to in Christmas come and gone?

Presents wrapped under the tree:

In our society, it would seem that we celebrate not one, but two Christmases -- that although December 25th is one day, it is really the crux of two different holidays. For one of these holidays, December 25th marks the end. For the other, it marks only the beginning.

Now, at one time, I believe, these two holidays were one and the same...or maybe one was banished for awhile and is now gradually coming back. One is the Christmas of the world. The other is the Christmas of the Christians.

For the world, "Christmas" begins earlier and earlier each year. It used to be the day after Thanksgiving that the red and green lights came out and the carols tinkled from the radio. Now it is closer to the day after Halloween. Stores peddle Christmas ware before the leaves have fallen. While the Church is draping the altar with expectant purple and lighting the first solemn glow of the Advent candle, Santa Claus is already enthroned on the pedestal of shopping malls and department stores.

Granted, all this early excitement may have something innocent and even good about it, depending on the circumstances. No one can blame a little boy for counting down the days to Christmas beginning in October. And doubtless many a devout Christian wouldn't think of waiting until Christmas to share the Christmas spirit and look forward with love and longing to Christ's birthday. This sort of excitement is understandable in the little boy's case and laudable in that of the adult.

Poinsettias clip art big 700x1087 Christmas:

However, side by side with early Christian enthusiasm walks another kind of excitement -- one that has nothing to do with the first sort and yet may look almost exactly like it. It is not so much an enthusiasm as a frenzy -- a fever, a restless desire not so much for Christmas as for some of the aspects of Christmas. This is the rush of mercantilism, the hectic sickness of greed, the hurry, push, grab of Black Friday. This is the cult that has abducted the jollity and innocence and simplicity of Santa Claus and made him into a cheap idol of avarice. And this, I suspect, is also the movement that is so desperately eager to throw out "Merry Christmas" and replace it with "Happy Holidays" and "Season's Greetings."

This group of people wants, quite literally, to take Christ out of Christmas -- in which case it cannot be Christmas anymore. They like the byproducts or, perhaps more accurately, the natural results of Christmas: peace, goodwill, music, feasting, presents. They don't care for the cause of Christmas, for Christmas itself. They want to replace it with another holiday, one which has nothing to do with religion.
Holiday Sign, Merry Everything Happy Always, Chalkboard Art, Chalk Art, Christmas Decor, Pine Cones, Christmas Art by TheWhiteLime on Etsy https://www.etsy.com/listing/254749919/holiday-sign-merry-everything-happy:

They would probably like to bring back the old pagan feast that the Romans used to celebrate on December 25th. In a way, they have brought it back. All the gift-giving and merrymaking the Romans delighted in, they revel in, too; and they revel, as the Romans did, without a very well-defined purpose. They are slipping back into the old pre-Christian ways, into the ways of paganism.

This festival of the neo-pagans, this "anti-Christmas," ends on December 25th. Why should it go on any longer? Santa Claus has made his rounds. The wrapping paper is all torn away and left in crumpled piles on the living room floor. Already on the third day of Christmas the presents which seemed to brilliant and tantalizing and fulfilling from the far-off land of November have begun to lose their luster. Celebrations go stale. We are tired of singing and dancing and showing goodwill to all. It's wearisome to put on a bright face, and why should we bother now? Santa has not only come, but gone. There's nothing more to look forward to. This last celebration has not satisfied us. We must rush on, on, to the next exciting thing -- to a New Year and work and the grind of daily life, and Valentine's Day in February.

Thus much of the world rushes by with glum faces, the cacophony of Christmas over.

But the rest of the world? The Christians?

On the third day of Christmas my true love gave to me...

The true Christians are left in silence, gazing at the manger.

The Reason for the Season.:

For them, Christmas has only just begun.

Other presents fade from the moment they are opened -- yes, even the presents Christians give one another in love, even the gifts from the real un-corrupted Santa Claus. But that's okay. We know it's okay. We have a present that doesn't fade.

The Babe in the manger grows brighter each day. He can't be fully appreciated at first glance. Unlike the other presents, the longer we gaze at Him the more value we see in Him, the more love will kindle in our hearts, the more joy and contentment and peace will flower in our lives.

On the third day of Christmas my true love gave to me...

One day is not enough to ponder this gift. Tradition has given us twelve. The Church in her generosity has given us until the Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord.

Maybe the flurry of getting and giving gifts is over. Maybe the malls are empty of decorations. Maybe the radio stations are silent. But a true Christian doesn't need the world to help him celebrate the gift the world can't see. It's up to the Christian to celebrate himself, that his eyes, and then the world's, might gradually be opened.

How shall we celebrate? With music, yes, with songs and dancing. We'll make our own music if the world won't sing for us. But also we will celebrate with silence. We will take the example of Mary, who might fittingly be called the first Christian and who, after the events themselves had unfolded, "pondered all these things in her heart."

Nacimiento:

My friends, my brothers and sisters, let us celebrate. Let us gather round the crib and gaze at the gift our God has given us. Let us ask ourselves what it means that God became man. Let us marvel.

Let us ponder.
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Credits: The above post was quite heavily inspired by G. K. Chesterton's book "The Everlasting Man," notably the chapter "The God in the Cave."

Merry Christmas, everyone! 

2 comments:

  1. SO true! Crazy that you post this, as I was thinking exactly this thing earlier today... Anyways, I would talk more, but I was doing something unfortunately... Bye! :)

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    1. Haha! I suppose we all get a little fed up with our society's fast-paced frenzied-ness around this time of year. :)

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