One of my favorite authors – and personalities – of all time is the British Catholic journalist G.K. Chesterton, whose biting wit and Christian zeal, both exercised with great flair as he commented on the intellectual and ideological fashions of his day, live on in his copious writings. Certainly Chesterton’s favorite season was Christmas. He wrote dozens of articles, poems, and reflections about Christmas themes, so often with a childlike wonder and profound awe, and always with his characteristic love for paradox. Here are a few Christmas-themed fragments I have run across that I wanted to share with you to enjoy. I hope you and I can attain to just half the joy Chesterton found in the Christmas season.
Christmas is an obstacle to modern progress. Rooted in the past, and even the remote past, it cannot assist a world in which the ignorance of history is the only clear evidence of the knowledge of science. Born among miracles reported from two thousand years ago, it cannot expect to impress that sturdy common sense which can withstand the plainest and most palpable evidence for miracles happening at this moment. . . .Christmas is not modern; Christmas is not Marxian; Christmas is not made on the pattern of that great age of the Machine, which promises to the masses an epoch of even greater happiness and prosperity than that to which it has brought the masses at this moment. Christmas is medieval; having arisen in the earlier days of the Roman Empire. Christmas is a superstition. Christmas is a survival of the past.
On Christmas Presents:
Christ Himself was a Christmas present. The note of material Christmas presents is struck even before He is born in the first movements of the sages and the star. The Three Kings came to Bethlehem bringing gold and frankincense and myrrh. If they had only brought Truth and Purity and Love there would have been no Christian art and no Christian Civilization.
On the Three Gifts:
There were three things prefigured and promised by the gifts in the cave in Bethlehem concerning the Child who received them; that He would be crowned like a King; that He should be worshipped like a God; and that He should die like a man. And these things would sound like Eastern flattery, were it not for the third.
On the Incarnation:
There has fallen on earth for a token
A god too great for the sky.
He has burst out of all things and broken
The bounds of eternity:
Into time and the terminal land
He has strayed like a thief or a lover,
For the wine of the world brims over,
Its splendour is spilt on the sand. . . .
Glory to God in the Lowest
The spout of the stars in spate-
Where thunderbolt thinks to be slowest
And the lightning fears to be late:
As men dive for sunken gem
Pursuing, we hunt and hound it,
The fallen star has found it
In the cavern of Bethlehem.