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Christmas Is Revolutionary

December 16, 2017 Featured Today No Comments

By DONALD DeMARCO

When people refuse to acknowledge bad things that come into their lives, we call it denial. By that we imply that the bad things are indeed real but it is the deniers who are being unrealistic. On the other hand, when people are confronted with exceedingly good things — things that are “too good to be true,” so to speak — they often find a way to reduce them to something trivial. The cynic, in this case, might call such people realistic while he dismisses the exceedingly good things that occur as unrealistic. So often, in the face of either great hardship or great good, people are less than realistic.
The greatest good that was ever brought to mankind in our star-crossed planet was the arrival of Christ, Prince of Peace, Savior, and Redeemer. And while, as G.K. Chesterton notes, “The Bethlehem story is plain enough to be understood by the shepherds, and almost by the sheep,” Christmas has always had its cynics, beginning with Herod, who fail to see its fundamental and salutary purpose.
The eminently quotable Chesterton offers us an amusing and enlightening example: “If a man called Christmas Day a mere hypocritical excuse for drunkenness and gluttony, that would be false, but it would have a fact hidden in it somewhere. But when Bernard Shaw says that Christmas Day is only a conspiracy kept up by poulterers and wine merchants from strictly business motives, then he says something which is not so much false as startling and arrestingly foolish. He might as well say that the two sexes were invented by jewelers who wanted to sell wedding rings.”
Modern marriage is not the invention of photographers. Televised football is not the brainchild of the beer industry. Christmas is not sustained because it rings the cash registers of department stores.
When we put first things first, we begin to see Christmas in its purity, an event that has a divine origin, and we see that it is the best thing that was ever brought into our world. Therefore, we should respond to its tidings of exceedingly good news with exceedingly great joy. We may be critical of those who profit monetarily from Christmas without being critical of Christmas itself. The cynic does not always know when to stop.
Christmas arrived at a time when the notion of paterfamilias ruled the family. This was a time, according to Roman law, when the father had legal control over his wife. He also had the power to sell his children into slavery as well as the authority to approve or reject marriages of his sons and daughters. He might not have welcomed Christmas because the advent of Christ turned this hierarchy on its head. The Christ Child now came first, Mary, His Mother second, and St. Joseph, a distant third.
The First Noel offers a rich meditation for those who view the unborn in the perspective of the ancient paterfamilias. Indeed, the Child is King. Christmas conveys the startling message that the family is truly a glorious institution because it can produce new life in the form of a new human being.
Christmas is revolutionary, though it represents a revolution that is just beginning and has a long way to go before its message is fully adopted. A cynic may be justified in his rejection of whatever is sentimental. But he is never justified when he rejects something that is true. Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is the story of a cynic who became a believer, a grouch who ultimately became overwhelmed with Christmas joy. It is an allegory of the power of Christmas to open people’s hearts and amplify their vision. Ebenezer’s “bah, humbug” was the utterance of a small mind and a closed heart.
The art of making Christmas plausible, filling the hearts of readers with hope, and portraying the irresistible beauty of brotherly love proved immensely successful to its Victorian public. In 1849 Dickens began public readings of his story and continued to do so for a staggering one hundred and seventy times until the year of his death in 1870. He wrote four additional Christmas stories. A Christmas Carol, which has never gone out of print, is Dickens’ most popular work.
There can be little doubt that its popularity is based on the natural way it touches the human heart. It disarms the cynic and causes the believer to rejoice. “I will honor Christmas in my heart,” Dickens once said, “and try to keep it all the year.”
Because Christmas centers on a child, it is not in the least surprising that it is so happily received by children. The hearts of children, untainted by the profit motive, are wide open to the mysteries of life. Christmas belongs to everyone, but it has a special place in the hearts of children. Christmas may be too real to put into mundane terms. The distinguished theologian Norman Vincent Peale has remarked that “Christmas waves a magic wand over the world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful.”
Even in war, armies have been known to cease fighting on Christmas Day. In motion pictures, when Christmas is portrayed, with a Yuletide tree glistening, carols being sung, snow falling, gifts being exchanged, and various reminders of this special day, the atmosphere is immediately transformed into something joyful and transcendent. Christmas overflows the heart and brightens the spirit of entire communities.
Bing Crosby became a household name at Christmastime, wishing everyone that “all their Christmases be white.” In a more reflective and less commercial mood, however, the inimitable crooner offered us better advice: “Unless we make Christmas an occasion to share our blessings, all the snow in Alaska won’t make it ‘white’.”
We are blessed, thanks to Christmas. And since blessings are gifts, their only proper use is to be shared with others. To the readers of The Wanderer, may all your Christmases be right, which is to say, a joyful celebration of the arrival of Christ in the world, the harbinger of peace and the embodiment of love.

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