We come at last to the Feast of the Nativity. I wish everyone a very merry and blessed Christmas!
It is sad that we are forgetting how to celebrate Christmas. This year I searched a half-dozen stores for cards with a Christmas theme, but without success. Instead of the joyful greeting “Merry Christmas!” I kept hearing the banal “Happy Holidays” or even the nauseating “Season’s Greetings”. This happens, of course, because the reason for the feast has been set aside by many. There are deep and complicated reasons for that, and there are reasons too why what remains grows ever more frantic and shallow. Various strategies are tried to invest the day with some lingering significance. We are even told to do our duty and “stimulate the economy” by buying things. But a feast is not about economic stimulation; a true feast stands outside and above the world of practical affairs.
The only remedy that I know is to celebrate Christmas myself, and to encourage others to do so as well. And so beginning today, and continuing each day throughout this twelve day festival, let us rejoice and be glad, and meditate on this great mystery: that a king humbled himself to come among us as a friend and a lover.
The Nativity of Christ
Behold: the father is his daughter’s son:
The bird that built the nest is hatched therein:
The old of years an hour hath not outrun:
Eternal life to live doth now begin.
The Word is dumb: the mirth of heaven doth weep:
Might feeble is: and force doth faintly creep.
O dying souls, behold your living spring:
O dazzled eyes, behold your sun of grace:
Dull ears, attend what word this Word doth bring:
Up, heavy hearts, with joy your joy embrace.
From death, from dark, from deafness, from despairs,
This life, this light, this Word, this joy repairs.
Gift better than himself God doth not know:
Gift better than his God no man can see:
This gift doth here the giver given bestow:
Gift to this gift let each receiver be.
God is my gift, himself he freely gave me:
God’s gift am I and none but God shall have me.
Man altered was by sin from man to beast:
Beasts’ food is hay, hay is all mortal flesh:
Now God is flesh and lies in manger pressed
As hay, the brutest sinner to refresh.
O happy field, wherein this fodder grew,
Whose taste doth us from beasts to men renew.
— St. Robert Southwell (1565-91)
If you need a little help to get the celebratory blood flowing, this should do the trick nicely:
In the tender compassion of our God
The dawn from on high shall break upon us,
To shine on those who dwell in darkness
and the shadow of death,
And to guide our feet into the way of peace.
* * * Luke 1:75-79 * * *