children we innocently believed in the little round-bellied
chimney god and the good, persecuted martyr of Cavalry
with equal reverence. He who filled our stockings with
candy and toys and glided baubles was quite as generous
and much more real than He who guarded and loved our
souls. In the early dark hours did we not wake up and
stealthily feel each stocking toe-tip? And were they
not actually stuffed with the long-desired treasures?
Could any proof be stronger? And then in a few years,
as the cold suspicion of truth stole over the child
mind like an autumn frost, and good St. Nick was discovered
to be a myth, did we not silently try to perpetuate
the crumbling dogma? That all his miraculous kindliness
should only be the work of our parents, after all, was
too sad to be believed. The frail tissue of fable on
which we had so confidingly relied was far too lovely
to be ruthlessly destroyed by any prosy fact; and there
stole over our perception, I think, a sort of sadness
at the disillusion, so that we would not willingly admit
even to ourselves that the delightful and impossible
childrens' paradise was at an end. It was, though; and
in time we came to substitute an understanding human
love of those who cared for us, for the ruined fairy
of Santa Claus and his Christmas team. And it was good
to have something to take the place of that which we
are many grown-up children who do not write letters
to Santa Claus and post them in the empty fireplace
any longer; who have discarded the doctrine of the fireside
Christmas Eve divinity with much superiority; who would
scorn to hang a stocking by their bed to-morrow night;
who would scoff at the idea that it might be
filled once again, if only they wished hard enough;
and who none the less will go to their temples on Christmas
Day with the unshaken hallucination that the Great Orderer
of the universe is to be influenced by many solicitations.
It may be so: it may be that this round world is ruled
by some great cosmic Santa Claus, who doles out blessings
while we are unaware, and is swayed by the urgent supplications
of his children. I have my doubts. I have a suspicion
that this, too, is no more than a nursery tale, though
a decent reverence for all ancient beauty makes me shrink
from acknowledging the infatuation even to myself.
the myth of the good St. Nicholas had to be destroyed,
in the interests of so-called education and truth, still
there remained behind the poetic symbol, the solid though
less attractive fact of human parental care and loving
kindness. But when you take away the greater myth of
the St. Nicholas for grown-ups, on what fact am I to
rely? Is that, too, merely a symbol of human love and
the kindliness of our own hearts? Among the marvels
of science is that contrivance which from an elaborate
sort of magic lantern casts moving and life-like pictures
upon a curtain for our edification? Is the master of
our destiny some such enormous shadow cast upon the
curtain of the universe from the tiny luminous point
of the mortal soul? Still how wonderful the mechanism
must be! And who invented that?
perhaps it is not important, after all. I am quite sure
that our good friend from Nazareth would care very little
how you explained him or the Father he talked about,
so long as you cherished his teaching. We have hardly
come to that yet; we cannot practice universal love.
But at least we can profess it. I suppose that is something.
for this day and year, our festival of peace is rudely
disturbed. Dream as we will of the spread of the kingdom
of love, the old method of bloodshed remains. We be
Christians in name, but Jehovists and Norse pagans in
reality. Who are the exponents of modern Christianity?
The Anglo-Saxons. And now at the dawn of the last year
of nineteen Christian centuries, one branch of that
dominant race is treading on a feeble Oriental people,
while its sister branch is waging desperate war with
a stubborn foe in Africa. Is this any better than a
Roman or a Macedonian campaign? You say the English
and the Americans have right on their side, and justice,
and the good of the world? Yes, but how can love fight
at all? Christ never resisted; He didn't believe in
resistance. Probably He was in error. If not, how, then,
can you justify your profession of His doctrine while
you are violating its letter and spirit?
is the old dilemma; the battle is to the strong, and
the strong are only made through battle: then how shall
we preserve our integrity as men, and yet allow wars
to cease? The law of life is that it shall live by strife;
the life that ceases to strive dies of decay. And then,
perhaps, we may eliminate hate without eliminating strife.
It is certain that the hunter does not hate the animal
he kills-not always. Perhaps we shall some day actually
come to love our enemies, as we were advised to do so
long ago; though it is much easier to love them after
they are dead.
you go to divine service on Christmas Day you may pray
for the success of the Boers or the British, as you
feel inclined; it won't alter the event one way or the
other: and it will relieve your tension. But please
don't imagine for one moment that you are a Christian.
You belong to the Old Testament dispensation, with your
Puritan ancestors and their pagan ancestors before them.