May 25, 2017

Strange Irony in “Merry Christmas”

by Steve Eulberg

Sifting through past Advent reflections, I found this quote which I had highlighted in the newsletter for the amazing inner-city worshipping community for which I served as pastor.

The quote is from Howard Thurman, whose writings supported my vision and flagging spirit, as the winds of hope that fill the sails that are unfurled for the journey.

This one comes from his Meditations of the Heart. A thoughtful blogpost about Dr. Thurman can also be found here.

Now, back to the quote which made me pause in my sifting:

"There is a strange irony in the usual salutation, "Merry Christmas," when most of the people on this planet are thrown back upon themselves for food which they do not possess, for resources that have long since been exhausted, and for vitality which has already runs its course."

Despite this condition, the inescapable fact remains that Christmas symbolizes hope even at a moment when hope seems utterly fantastic. 

The raw materials of the Christmas mood are a newborn, baby, a family, friendly animals, and labor. An endless process of births is the perpetual answer of life to the fact of death.

It says that life keeps coming on, keeps seeking to fulfill itself, keeps affirming the margin of hope in the presence of desolation, pestilence and despair.

It is not an accident that the birth rate seems always to increase during times of war, when the formal processes of [man] are engaged in the destruction of others. 

Welling up out of the depths of vast vitality, there is Something at work that is more authentic than the formal, discursive design of the human mind.

As long as this is true ultimately, despair about the human race is groundless."