THE APPOSITENESS OF CHRISTMAS
“Yes,” you say, “I am quite at one with you as to the immense importance of goodwill in social existence, and I have the same faith in it as you have. But why a festival? Why eating and drinking and ceremonies? Surely one can have faith without festivals?”
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The answer is that one cannot; or at least that in practice, one never does. A disinclination for festivals, a morbid self-conscious fear of letting oneself go, is a sure sign of lack of faith. If you have not enough enthusiasm for the cult of goodwill to make you positively desire to celebrate the cult, then your faith is insufficient and needs fostering by study and meditation. Why, if you decide to found a sailing-club up your creek, your very first thought is to signalise your faith in the sailing of those particular waters by a dinner and a jollity, and you take care that the event shall be an annual one! * * * You have faith in your wife, and in your affection for her. Surely you don’t need a festival to remind you of that faith, you so superior to human weaknesses? But you do! You insist on having it. And, if the festival did not happen, you would feel gloomy and discouraged. A birthday is a device for recalling to you in a formal and impressive manner that a certain person still lives and is in need of goodwill. It is a device which experience has proved to be both valuable and necessary.
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Real faith effervesces; it shoots forth in every direction; it communicates itself. And the inevitable result is a festival. The festival is anticipated with pleasure, and it is remembered with pleasure. And thus it reacts stimulatingly on that which gave it birth, as the vitality of children reacts stimulatingly on the vitality of parents. It provides a concrete symbol of that which is invisible and intangible, and mankind is not yet so advanced in the path of spiritual perfection that we can afford to dispense with concrete symbols. Now, if we maintain festivals and formalities for the healthy continuance and honour of a pastime or of a personal affection, shall we not maintain a festival—and a mighty one—in behalf of a faith which makes the corporate human existence bearable amid the menaces and mysteries that for ever threaten it,—the faith of universal goodwill and mutual confidence?
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If then, there is to be a festival, why should it not be the festival of Christmas? It can, indeed, be no other. Christmas is most plainly indicated. It is dignified and made precious by traditions which go back much further than the Christian era; and it has this tremendous advantage—it exists! In spite of our declining faith, it has been preserved to us, and here it is, ready to hand. Not merely does it fall at the point which uncounted generations