“Are you willing to forget what you have done for other people, and to remember what other people have done for you… Are you willing to stoop down and consider the needs and the 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… 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.”
~ Henry van Dyke (excerpts from Keeping Christmas)
Henry’s Short Christmas Sermon perfectly captures the essence of Christmas… that wonderful, peaceful, joyous feeling that seeps into our hearts and spills out into the world for a short season of the year. It is a wonderful holiday, a celebration that has much to provide for us and give to us, but it also requires something from us–it requires that we believe in love, that we spread love, and that we allow our hearts to become love.
If we simply see Christmas as a commercial holiday that is about buying and receiving gifts, listening to Christmas songs, or putting up a Christmas tree and decorations, then there really are not a lot of conditions to be met. But when we reduce Christmas to this level, we lose the reason for the season–a holy day in which we celebrate the coming of perhaps the most important individual to walk this Earth–Jesus Christ. His coming into this world brings hope for all mankind, but more importantly, models for us the love we are to have for one another. And if we wish to keep Christmas as a holy day, more is required of us than just keeping the holiday in our hearts, giving and receiving gifts, and joining in the festivities. We must acknowledge that Christmas is about love–we must be compassionate individuals and recognize the divine in all those we meet, we must believe in the goodness of others and become a part of the goodwill towards all mankind, and we must clothe ourselves in love and mercy.
So ask yourself, “Am I going to keep Christmas?” And if you are going to keep Christmas for a day, why not all year-round? Such love is needed every day of the year.
Let the love of Christmas fill your heart.
Questions to consider:
How has Christmas become more and more commercialized? Has society allowed this to happen, or was it inevitable? Is it necessarily bad?
In what ways do you “keep” Christmas? How has that changed throughout the years?
What does Christmas mean to you? What does it have to do with love?
For further thought:
“Best of all, Christmas means a spirit of love, a time when the love of God and the love of our fellow men should prevail over all hatred and bitterness, a time when our thoughts and deeds and the spirit of our lives manifest the presence of God.” ~ George F. McDougall