Keeping Christmas

From: <>
Date: Sun Dec 25 2005 - 10:19:01 EST

This is an excerpt from Henry Van Dyke's "The Spirit of Christmas" written
around 1900.

Keeping Christmas

   It is a good thing to observe Christmas day. The mere marking of times and
seasons, when men agree to stop work and make merry together, is a wise and
wholesome custom. It helps one to feel the supremacy of the common life over
the individual life. It reminds a man to set his own little watch, no and then,
by the great clock of humanity which runs on sun time.
   But there is a better thing than the observance of Christmas day, and that
is, keeping Christmas.
   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, andtry 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? Thenb you can eep Christmas.
   Are you willing to stoop down and consider the needs and 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 on their
hearts; to try to understand what those who live in the same house with you
really want, without waiting for them 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 kindly feelings, witht he gat 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.

----end of excerpt

..we might add: Are we willing to disregard the long history of impatient
snips and criticisms from those who seemingly refuse to "get my point" and
return instead a kind and generous word (without any embedded barbs) -- even
just for a day? It's hard to do, but I'm going to practice with my own family
as we drive to church this morning.

This book also has a longer story titled "The Christmas Angel", and he wrote
another piece: "The Fourth Wiseman"; both wonderful stories.

Received on Sun Dec 25 10:21:58 2005

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