What Christmas Is As We Grow Older
Time was, with most of us, when Christmas Day, encircling all our limited world like a magic ring, left nothing out for us to miss or seek; bound together all our home enjoyments, affections, and hopes; grouped everything and every one around the Christmas fire; and made the little picture shining in our bright young eyes complete.
And is our life here, at the best, so constituted that, pausing as we advance at such a noticeable milestone in the track as this great birthday, we look back on the things that never were, as naturally and full as gravely as on the things that have been and are gone, or have been and still are? If it be so, and so it seems to be, must we come to the conclusion that life is little better than a dream, and little worth the loves and strivings that we crowd into it?
No! Far be such miscalled philosophy from us, dear reader, on Christmas Day! Nearer and closer in our hearts be the Christmas spirit, which is the spirit of active usefulness, perseverance, cheerful discharge of duty, kindness, and forbearance! It is in the last virtues especially that we are, or should be, strengthened by the unaccomplished visions of our youth; for, who shall say that they are not our teachers, to deal gently even with the impalpable nothings of the earth!
Welcome, old aspirations, glittering creatures of an ardent fancy, to your shelter underneath the holly! We know you, and have not outlived you yet. Welcome, old projects and old loves, however fleeting, to your nooks among the steadier lights that burn around us. Welcome, all that was ever real to our hearts; and for the earnestness that made you real, thanks to heaven!
Welcome everything! Welcome alike what has been, and what never was, and what we hope may be, in your shelter underneath the holly, to your places round the Christmas fire, where what is, sits openhearted!
Of all days in the year, we will turn our faces toward that City upon Christmas Day, and from its silent hosts bring those we loved among us. In the Blessed Name wherein we are gathered together at this time, and in the Presence that is here among us according to the promise, we will receive, and not dismiss, the people who were dear to us!
The winter sun goes down over town and village; on the sea it makes a rosy path, as if the Sacred Tread were fresh upon the water. A few more moments, and it sinks, and night comes on, and lights begin to sparkle in the prospect. In town and village, there are doors and windows closed against the weather; there are flaming logs heaped high; there are joyful faces; there is healthy music of voices. Be all ungentleness and harm excluded from the temples of the household gods, but be those memories admitted with tender encouragement! They are of Time and all the comforting and peaceful reassurances; and of the broad beneficence and goodness that too many men have tried to tear to narrow shreds.