Monday, January 15, 2007

24 December: Boreham on Christmas

Magic of Christmas
It is difficult to believe that within the bounds of Christen-dom there breathes a soul so dead that no little trills of pleasurable sensation tingle through his nerves as he anticipates once more the pealing of the Christmas bells, the spreading of the Christmas feast, and all the fun and frolic incidental to the time-honoured occasion. There is a magnetism about Christmas that transforms everything and everybody. At Christmas each individual undergoes a mysterious and magical metamorphosis.

Is it because at Christmas more than at any other time, the divine impinges upon the human, and the human upon the divine? It is this intensely human and yet profoundly sublime element in the Christian revelation—an element that is all the more appealing because it is infused with mortal tenderness as well as with celestial authority—that will make the Christmas message particularly grateful as we keep the feast this year.

We are living in a worried world. To a worried world most festivals would constitute themselves a form of mockery. Yet nothing could be more soothing and strengthening to those who are feeling the pressure of the hour than the timely reminder that the Highest is not remote from the anxieties of the lowliest, but has, at Bethlehem, assumed our very flesh and blood in order that He may render Himself the more intelligible and approachable. Christmas sweetens and sanctifies the joys of the glad and ministers comfort to those with whom the world is going hardly.

Appeal To The Gregarious Instinct
Nor is this all. For a subsidiary, and scarcely less attractive factor comes into operation. Quite obviously, one of the most important ingredients in the composition of the Yuletide sentiment is the element of contagion. There is always a peculiar satisfaction in thinking what everybody is thinking, feeling what everybody is feeling, and doing what everybody is doing. We are gregarious creatures; we go in packs and herds; we unconsciously stimulate each other to joy and sorrow, to admiration and execration, to emotion and excitement.

It is easy to laugh when everybody is laughing; easy to weep when everybody is in tears. The most solitary and phlegmatic man cannot walk through a park on a public holiday in exactly the same temper in which he would traverse it on a day on which he has its lawns and lakes and avenues all to himself. In spite of himself, he is influenced by the carnival atmosphere, and imbibes something of the spirit of the occasion. For pleasure is highly infectious. The gladness of the multitude communicates itself, almost irresistibly, to the individual. This vital principle never wields its spell with greater force than at Christmas time.

Christmas Spirit Deeply Ingrained
If there is anything at all in the doctrine of heredity, it may reasonably be supposed that a certain reverence for the Christmas festival must, by this time, have become ingrained in the very warp and woof of our British breed. Miss Frances Power Cobbe, an eminent sociologist, used to say that it would take 10,000 years to produce a full-blooded atheist out of the scion of 40 generations of Christianity. That being so, what of the Christmas sentiment? Beneath whatever stars a Briton happens to dwell, the old emotions will creep back upon him in December. Men who recognise no special authority in the sublime origin of the Christmas faith, nevertheless find the sacred traditions clustering about the season too magnetic and too compelling to permit of their being disregarded.

With shepherds and with sages they turn wistful faces towards Bethlehem. They cannot close their ears to the angels' voices; they cannot shut their eyes to the beckoning star. The music of the Christmas bells vibrates through all human sensations, evoking a response from every breast. Humanity has a few noble traditions too stupendous and too sacred to be classified as the peculiar property of any class, clime, or creed; and the tender and inspiring reflections suggested by the return of the Christmas season stamp it as an integral portion of that priceless heritage.

F W Boreham

Image: 'The music of the Christmas bells'

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