This is a lovely excerpt about Christmas by J.R. Miller written in the early 1900’s…
We should not forget the word “peace,” in our lesson. “Peace on earth.” We should seek for the things which make for peace.
It is easy to misunderstand others, even our dearest friends. One may hold a penny before his eye—so that it will shut out all the beautiful sky, all the blue and all the stars.
It is easy, too, to make little offences grow large—as we brood over them, until, held up before our face—they hide whole fields of beauty and good in the lives of our friends!
An unpleasant word is spoken thoughtlessly by someone, and we fret and vex ourselves over it, lying awake all night thinking of it, and by tomorrow it has grown into what seems an unpardonable wrong that our friend has committed against us!
But Christ’s way is different—he turns the other cheek. He forgives, he forgets, he blots out the record—and goes on loving just as before—as if nothing had happened!
The Christmas spirit teaches us to deal in the same way with those who injure us. Life is too short to mind such hurts, which ofttimes are as much woundings of our own pride or self-esteem—as real injuries to us. In any case, heavenly love ignores them.
One says, “The hurts of friendship, of social life, of household familiarity—must be ignored, gotten over, forgotten—as are the hurts, the wounds, the bruises, the scratches of briers or thorns on our bodies!”
If we would make it really Christmas in our own hearts—we must learn to forget ourselves, and to think of others. We must stop keeping account of what we have done for other people—and begin to put down in place, what other people have done for us.
We must cease thinking what others owe to us—and remember what we owe to them; and that we own Christ and the world, the best we have to give to life and love. We must give up chafing about our rights—and begin to rejoice in giving up our rights and doing our duties.
Someone says that the best thing about rights is that they are our own—and we can give them up. We must no longer sit on little thrones and expect people to show us honor, attention, and deference, and to bow down to us and serve us—but, instead, must get down into the lowly places of love and begin to serve others, even the lowliest, in the lowliest ways. That is the way our Master did.
We must make Christmas first in our own heart—before we can make it for any other. A grumpy person, a selfish person, a tyrannous and despotic person, an uncharitable, unforgiving person—cannot enter into the spirit of Christmas himself, and cannot add to the blessing of Christmas for his friends or neighbors. The day must begin within—in one’s own heart.
But it will not end there. We must be a maker of Christmas for others—or we cannot make a real Christmas for ourselves. We need the sharing of our joy—in order to gain its real possession. If we try to keep our Christmas all to ourselves, we will miss half its sweetness.
There would seem not to be any need at the Christmastide to say a word to urge people—to be kind to others and to do things for them. Everybody we meet at this season, carries an armful of mysterious bundles.
For weeks before the happy day, the stores are thronged with people buying all sorts of gifts. To the homes of the poor—baskets by hundreds are sent, with their toys for the children. The spirit of giving is in the very air. Even the churl and the miser are generous and liberal, for the time. Everybody catches the spirit of giving, for once in the year.
But this is not the only way to do good, to help others. In a story, a good man says, “It’s very hard to know how to help people when you can’t send them blankets, or coal, or Christmas dinners.”
With many people, this is very true. They know of no way of helping others, except by giving them material things. Yet there are better ways of doing good—than by sending food or clothing. One may have no money to spend—and yet may be a liberal benefactor. We may help others by sympathy, by cheer, by encouragement.
A good woman when asked at Thanksgiving time for what she was most grateful, said that that which, above all other things, she was thankful for at the end of the year—was courage. She had been left with a family of children to care for—and the burden had been very heavy.
Again and again she had been on the point of giving up in the despair of defeat. But through the cheer and encouragement received from a friend—she had been kept brave and strong through all the trying experience. Her courage had saved her.
It is a great thing to be such an encourager—there is no other way in which we can help most people—better than by giving them courage. Without such inspiration, many people sink down in their struggles and fail.
Too many people—to far more than we think, life is very hard, and it is easy for them to faint along the way. What they need, however, is not to have the load lifted off, or to be taken out of the hard fight—but to be strengthened to go on victoriously. The help they need is not in temporal things—but in sympathy and heartening.
So far as we are told—Jesus never sent people blankets to keep them warm, or fuel for their fires, or Christmas dinners, or toys for the children. Yet there never was such a helper of others—as he was!
He had the marvelous power of putting himself under people’s loads—by putting himself into people’s lives. There is a tremendous power of helpfulness in true sympathy, and Jesus sympathized with all sorrow and all hardness of condition.
Jesus loved people—that was the great secret of his helpfulness. He felt men’s sufferings. In all their afflictions, he was afflicted. One said, “If I were God, my heart would break with the sorrows of the world.” He was blaming God for permitting such sufferings, such calamities, such troubles, as daily history records. He said God was cruel to look on in silence—and not put a stop to these terrible things. “If I were God, my heart would break over such anguish and pain as are in the world.”
He did not understand that that was just what the heart of Christ did—it broke with compassion, with love, with sorrow, over the world’s woes! Thus he was enabled to become the world’s Redeemer.
He was a marvelous helper of others—not by giving material things—but by imparting spiritual help. It is right to give gifts at Christmas—they do good, if they are carefully and wisely chosen and are given with the desire to do good. But let us seek to be helpers also in higher ways.
We can help greatly by being happiness makers. Someone says, “Blessed are the happiness makers. Blessed are those who remove friction, who make the courses of life smooth, and the fellowship of men gentle.”
There is far more need of this sort of help—than most of us imagine. We think most people are quite happy. We have no conception of the number of people about us who are lonely, and find their loneliness almost unbearable at such times as the Christmastide.
Perhaps nearly every one of us knows at least one person who will have no home on next Christmas Day, but a dreary room in itself, it may be—but made more dreary by the absence of home’s loved ones. You do not know what a blessing you may be to this homeless one—if you will in some way put a taste of home into his experience even for one hour on Christmas.
Jesus has told us how near these lonely ones are to him. He knew what it was to have no place to go at the close of the day—when the people scattered off, everyone to his own house leaving him alone, with no invitation to anyone’s hospitality and no place but the mountains to go for the night.
Then he tells us, that if we open our door to a stranger and take him in—it is the same as if we had opened the door and taken in Jesus himself. He is pleased, therefore, when, in any loving way, we make Christmas a little less lonely for some homesick one.
A word may be said, too, to those who will be alone on Christmas, who are away from their homes, or have no longer any home. There is a way in which they can do much to make the day brighter for themselves. Though no taste or touch of human fellowship and friendship be their that day—they need not grow disheartened. George Macdonald says, “To be able to have the things we want—that is riches; but to be able to do without them—that is power.” This is then the lesson of loneliness—to gain the victory over it.
One of the problems of life is to live independently of circumstances and conditions. Paul said he had learned in whatever state he was, therein to be content. The secret was in himself. He carried in his own mind and heart—the resources he needed. No matter how bare his life was of comforts, or how full of trials and sufferings—the peace and joy within were not disturbed.
It may not be easy for the lonely ones, lacking the companionship and fellowship of home and its happiness, to go through a Christmastide, as if nothing were lacking. Yet there is a way to overcome in great measure, the lack of fellowship.
Much can be done by thinking of others who are lonely, and doing what we can to carry cheer to them. In doing this—we will forget our own lonely condition. Then we can turn our heart-hunger toward Christ—who is always willing to give us his joy. Here is a little prayer for lonely people, which some may find fitting for the Christmastide.
“True, heroic virtue is rare and where it does exist, it makes so little noise!” -Christ in the Home, Fr. Raoul Plus, S.J.
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