From Love Came Down
And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.
Some will tell you that people are not as merry now on this day as they used to be. One says that this is a grievous thing, that we should try if we can to bring back the old times. Another says, “This cannot be, people are wiser now. They know that one day is no better than another; the thing is to be real Christians in our hearts.” Another tells us “Christmas Day is forgotten, because that which Christmas Day speaks of does not signify so much as it once did. It was good for the people who lived a thousand years ago to believe such tales; but we have better and more solid things to care for.” My friends, I will tell you what I believe is the truth about these notions, which different people will puzzle you with. To those who say, “Let us bring back the old times – let us be merry as we used to be,” I would say, “Well! but we cannot be merry merely because we try to be so. We cannot be merry unless there is something to make us merry. If our hearts be glad we shall find ways to express our gladness, but we do not make our hearts glad by pretending that they are so, or by putting on the outward signs of jollity.”
It may be, friends, that easy, comfortable people make less of Christmas Day than they once did. Perhaps they will presently make less of it than they do now. If the Bible be true, this was to be expected. For hear what Isaiah says, and Saint Peter repeats the words, “The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God will stand forever,” (Isaiah 40:8). As if he had said, “All that has grown out of this root shall drop off in order that it may be seen how deeply the root itself is fixed in the soil.” We do not keep Christmas in the bright, sunny time of the year, but now in the heart of winter, when everything is bare and dry. And our Lord himself is said to be “a root out of a dry ground,” that, indeed, from which all the blossoms of hope and joy are to come, but which must first be owned in its own nakedness before they shall appear. If then, my friends, people have begun to fancy that their gladness has another root than this, it is good that for a time they should be left to try whether they can keep it alive by any efforts and skill of theirs. If Christmas joy has been separated from Christ, it is no wonder and no dishonor to Christ that it should grow feeble and hollow. But Christmas is not dead because the mirth of those who have forgotten its meaning is dead. It is not dead for you, it is not dead for people who lie upon beds tormented with fevers, and dropsies, and cancers. It is not dead for the children in factories, and for the men who are working in mines, and for prisoners who never see the light of the sun. To all these the news: “The Word who was in the beginning with God and was God, in whom is life, and whose life is the light of all people, by whom all things were made, and without whom was not anything made that was made, became flesh and dwelt among us, entered into our poverty, and suffering, and death,” – is just as mighty and cheering news now as it was when Saint Peter first declared it on the day of Pentecost. You want this truth, my friends, you cannot live or die without it. You have a right to it. By your baptism God has given you a portion in him who was made flesh; by your suffering he is inviting you to claim that portion, to understand that it is indeed for you Christ lived and died. You may live as if no such news as this had ever been proclaimed in the world, but it is not the less true that it has been proclaimed, and proclaimed for you. And blessed be God, this proclamation is not made merely through weak, mortal lips; that altar bears a more deep and amazing witness of it than it is possible for these words of mine to bear. There you may learn how real the union is which the living Word of God established with human flesh; how truly that flesh is given to be the life of the world. Christmas Day declares that he dwelt among us. To those who here eat his flesh and drink his blood, he promises that he will dwell in them, and that they shall dwell in him. This is the festival which makes us know, indeed that we are members of one body; it binds together the life of Christ on Earth with his life in Heaven; it assures us that Christmas Day belongs not to time but to eternity.