Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Of Merriment, Miracles and the Meaning of Christmas

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. —Isaiah 9:6

In our humble blog's short time here on the worldwide interwebs, we've covered many topics, including the run-up to today. There is so little one can add to what has been said in so many sermons, written in so many books, sung in so many songs and prayed in so many prayers about Christmas, but that doesn't mean we can't try to say something relatively meaningful.

Today, the world seems to stop, just for a moment, and yet, we know that this is not so. The poor do not become rich. The sick do not become well. The soldier does not cease fighting— actually, that one did happen.

Many of us seldom think of the First World War. That conflict is nearly a century old; isn't it just ancient history? Many of us have also forgotten the unprecedented carnage that dreadful war wrought. But as the first year of that monstrous, violent sin drew to a close, there was, for one day at least, a glimmer of hope in that period of darkness.

On December 7, 1914 (eerily, the same day in 1941 that the Japanese would attack the United States, forcing American entry into the Second World War), Pope Benedict XV begged for a Christmas truce between the warring powers, "that the guns may fall silent at least upon the night the angels sang." He was officially rebuffed, but on Christmas, Belgian, British and French soldiers and their German foes took matters into their own hands and laid down their arms, exchanged presents and sang carols, in their respective languages.

The truce — and others like it elsewhere — was short-lived, and millions more souls would be lost in the ensuing years, but since then, the Christmas truce has stood as a testament to the shared humanity that even the fiercest of enemies can display for one another. To allow the peace of Christ into one's heart requires a humility not all of us can muster. That hundreds of thousands of warriors could stop the world was truly a Christmas miracle.

There is one Christmas carol which always makes me weep, "In the Bleak Midwinter". I tend to lose myself at the line, "...but His mother only, in her maiden bliss, worshipped the Beloved, with a kiss." But as I try to compose myself (and presumably, the rest of the congregation is staring at what a sobbing mess I am), we come to the final stanza, "What can I give Him, poor as I am? If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb; if I were a wise man, I would do my part; yet what I can I give Him, give my heart."

And that is exactly what we must do. Christmas is, after all, Jesus' birthday, but instead of giving Him gifts, we give them to each other, which is fine! But this Christmas, as we should every Christmas, we must never forget Jesus, the true Reason for the Season — not money, nor clothing, nor jewellery, nor any of the other frivolous things which will pass away the day we, God willing, enter into Eternal Life. On behalf of all of us at Unpleasant Accents, Merry Christmas.

Christmas, then, is not something that has happened; it is something that is happening. Christmas is the day when the God-Man says to every person in the world, "My Mother Mary gave Me a human nature like unto your own in all things save sin. I have shown you how one can overcome the worst of the human situation and live in joy. But what I want to do is to take your human nature, as I took the human nature from Mary. I want to give you an infusion of light for your mind, a power for your will, and a joy for your heart. What does it profit Me if I am born in Bethlehem and am not reborn in your hearts? You will find that all who have given themselves to Me are at peace. They are full of joy, they are merry." That is why we who belong to Him greet one another on this day with a "Merry Christmas." —Venerable Fulton J. Sheen, whose Christmas sermon is viewable in three parts


  1. Nicely stated. And speaking of truces, let's start a movement to declare a truce on Christmas consumerism. What if we all said next year, "No gifts. Let's have a potluck dinner, sit around the tree, listen to music, talk, and go to church."

    1. My favourite material Christmas presents are restaurant gift cards. The gift is really the fellowship I get from hosting my friends. Well, that and booze.