Christmas Daybook, 12: The Wise Men

My Christmas daybook for these 12 days of celebrating. We'll be spending Christmastide with the good, old theologian/British mystery writer/ Christmas elf, G.K. Chesterton. Join us, won't you?   (see all Christmas daybook 2016-17 posts here)


“We come bearing gifts of myrrh and gold…”  Calander sheets for ‘January’ depicting the Three Wise Men by Heinrich Lefler and Josef Urban. Published 1899 as part of an Austrian calendar. ( source )

“We come bearing gifts of myrrh and gold…”

Calander sheets for ‘January’ depicting the Three Wise Men by Heinrich Lefler and Josef Urban. Published 1899 as part of an Austrian calendar. (source)

STEP softly, under snow or rain,
To find the place where men can pray;
The way is all so very plain,
That we may lose the way.

Oh, we have learnt to peer and pore
On tortured puzzles from our youth.
We know all labyrinthine lore,
We are the three Wise Men of yore,
And we know all things but the truth.

Go humbly . . . it has hailed and snowed . . .
With voices low and lanterns lit,
So very simple is the road,
That we may stray from it.

The world grows terrible and white,
And blinding white the breaking day,
We walk bewildered in the light,
For something is too large for sight,
And something much too plain to say.

The Child that was ere worlds begun
( . . . We need but walk a little way . . .
We need but see a latch undone . . . )
The Child that played with moon and sun
Is playing with a little hay.

The house from which the heavens are fed,
The old strange house that is our own,
Where tricks of words are never said,
And Mercy is as plain as bread,
And Honour is as hard as stone,

Go humbly; humble are the skies,
And low and large and fierce the Star,
So very near the Manger lies,
That we may travel far.

Hark! Laughter like a lion wakes
To roar to the resounding plain,
And the whole heaven shouts and shakes,
For God Himself is born again
And we are little children walking
Through the snow and rain.
— "The Wise Men" by G. K. Chesterton

Listen: As With Gladness, Men of Old (beautiful lyrics here)


Today's Readings:  Psalm 72; Joshua 1:1-9; Hebrews 11:32-12:2

Prayer for the day: 

O God of light and peace,
whose glory, shining in the child of Bethlehem,
still draws the nations to yourself:
dispel the darkness that shrouds our path,
that we may come
to kneel before Christ in true worship,
offer him our hearts and souls,
and return from his presence to live as he has taught. Amen.
— Revised Common Lectionary Prayers, 2002

12 Ways To Savor the 12 Days of Christmas (ideas to celebrate the last day of Christmastide)

Christmas Daybook, 10: Evening

My Christmas daybook for these 12 days of celebrating. We'll be spending Christmastide with the good, old theologian/British mystery writer/ Christmas elf, G.K. Chesterton. Join us, won't you?   (see all Christmas daybook 2016-17 posts here)


Christmas At Home by Grandma Moses

Christmas At Home by Grandma Moses

 
Here dies another day
During which I have had eyes, ears, hands
And the great world round me;
And with tomorrow begins another.
Why am I allowed two?
— "Evening", G.K. Chesterton: Notebook

Listen: Silent Night by Elizabeth Mitchell


Today's Readings: Psalm 72, Genesis 28:10-22, Hebrews 11:13-22

Prayer for the Day:  

Bright Morning Star,
your light has come,
and the birth of Jesus
has overwhelmed us with joy.
Like the magi of long ago,
may we be drawn to you
and offer you such gifts as we are able. Amen.
— Revised Common Lectionary Prayers, 2002

12 Ways To Savor the 12 Days of Christmas (a few ideas for the last three days of Christmas!)

Christmas Daybook, 9: Passionate peace is in the sky

My Christmas daybook for these 12 days of celebrating. We'll be spending Christmastide with the good, old theologian/British mystery writer/ Christmas elf, G.K. Chesterton. Join us, won't you?   (see all Christmas daybook 2016-17 posts here)


The Flight to Egypt  by Nicholas Mynheer ( source )

The Flight to Egypt by Nicholas Mynheer (source)

 
Passionate peace is in the sky ─
And in the snow in silver sealed
The beasts are perfect in the field,
And men seem men so suddenly ─
(But take ten swords and ten times ten
And blow the bugle in praising men
For we are for all men under the son,
And they are against us every one
And misers haggle and madmen clutch
And there is peril in praising much,
And we have the terrible tongues uncurled
That praise the world to the sons of the world).

The idle humble hill and wood
Are bowed about the sacred birth,
And for one little hour the earth
Is lazy with the love of good ─
(But ready are you, and ready am I,
If the battle blow and the guns go by;
For we are for all men under the sun,
And they are against us every one;
And the men that hate herd all together,
To pride and gold, and the great white feather,
And the thing is graven in star and stone
That the men who love are all alone).

Hunger is hard and time is tough,
But bless the beggars and kiss the kings,
For hope has broken the heart of things,
And nothing was ever praised enough.
(But hold the shield for a sudden swing
And point the sword when you praise a thing,
For we are for all men under the sun,
And they are against us every one,
And mime and merchant, thane and thrall
Hate us because we love them all,
Only till Christmastide go by
Passionate peace is in the sky).
— "The Truce of Christmas", G. K. Chesterton

Listen: Peace Is Here by Jars of Clay

Today's Readings: Psalm 20, Genesis 12:1-7, Hebrews 11:1-12

Prayer for the Day:  

O Holy One, heavenly angels spoke to earthly shepherds and eternity entered time in the child of Bethlehem. Through the telling of the Christmas story, let our temporal lives be caught up in the eternal in that same child, that we might join shepherds and all the heavenly host in praising the coming of Jesus Christ, our Savior. Amen.
— Revised Common Lectionary Prayers, 2002

12 Ways To Savor the 12 Days of Christmas (my annual post for Christmastide)

Christmas Daybook, 8: The Holy of Holies

My Christmas daybook for these 12 days of celebrating. We'll be spending Christmastide with the good, old theologian/British mystery writer/ Christmas elf, G.K. Chesterton. Join us, won't you?   (see all Christmas daybook 2016-17 posts here)


Rest of the holy family  by Le Nain brothers ( source )

Rest of the holy family by Le Nain brothers (source)

 
‘ELDER father, though thine eyes
Shine with hoary mysteries,
Canst thou tell what in the heart
Of a cowslip blossom lies?

’Smaller than all lives that be,
Secret as the deepest sea,
Stands a little house of seeds,
Like an elfin’s granary,

’Speller of the stones and weeds,
Skilled in Nature’s crafts and creeds,
Tell me what is in the heart
Of the smallest of the seeds.’

’God Almighty, and with Him
Cherubim and Seraphim,
Filling all eternity—
Adonai Elohim.’
— "The Holy of Holies", G.K. Chesterton: The Wild Knight and Other Poems

 

Listen: Hosanna by Josh Garrels 


Today's Readings: Isaiah 63:7-9, Psalm 148, Hebrews 2:10-18, Matthew 2:13-23

Prayer for the Day:  The Collect for the First Sunday After Christmas

Almighty God, you have poured upon us the new light of your incarnate Word: Grant that this light, enkindled in our hearts, may shine forth in our lives; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
— Book of Common Prayer

12 Ways To Savor the 12 Days of Christmas (my post for Christmastide from a few years ago)

Christmas Daybook, 6: Christmas Must Go

My Christmas daybook for these 12 days of celebrating. We'll be spending Christmastide with the good, old theologian/British mystery writer/ Christmas elf, G.K. Chesterton. Join us, won't you?  (see all Christmas daybook 2016-17 posts here)


"A Child's Christmas In Wales"  by Dylan Thomas, illustrated by Fritz Eichenberg ( source )

"A Child's Christmas In Wales"  by Dylan Thomas, illustrated by Fritz Eichenberg (source)

 
Christmas is utterly unsuited to the modern world. It presupposes the possibility of families being united, or reunited, and even of the men and women who chose each other being on speaking terms. Thus thousands of young adventurous spirits, ready to face the facts of human life, and encounter the vast variety of men and women as they really are, ready to fly to the ends of the earth and tolerate every alien or accidental quality in cannibals or devil-worshippers, are cruelly forced to face an hour, nay sometimes even two hours, in the society of Uncle George; or some aunt from Cheltenham whom they do not particularly like. Such abominable tortures cannot be tolerated in a time like ours. That larger brotherhood, that truer sensibility, has already taught every spirited young lady (of sufficient wealth and leisure) to be thrilled at the prospect of having breakfast with a gun-man, lunch with a Sheik, and dinner with an Apache in Paris. It is intolerable that such sensibility should suffer the shock of the unexpected appearance of her own mother, or possibly her own child. It was never supposed that Parents were included in the great democratic abstraction called People. It was never supposed that brotherhood could extend to brothers.

Anyhow, Christmas is unsuited to modern life; its concentration in the household was conceived without allowing for the size and convenience of the modern hotel; its inheritance of ceremonial ignored the present convention of unconventionality; its appeal to childhood was in conflict with the more liberal conception; that Bright Young Things should always feel as if they were old and talk as if they were dull. That freer and franker school of manners, which consists of being bored with everybody who is present and forgetting everybody who is absent, is insulted in its first part by the old custom of drinking healths or exchanging good wishes, and in its second part by the custom of writing letters or sending Christmas cards. Under the load of such old tribal or communal exchanges, it is impossible to preserve the fine shade, the delicate distinction that marks modern manners; the distinction by which the next-door neighbour in the street is forgotten, while the next door neighbour at the dinner-table is only ignored. How could we expect to extend a tradition that depended upon hospitality, across that happy interlude in the modern fashionable world, which replaced hospitality by housebreaking? Some variation of phrase was doubtless essential; and, to speak strictly and pedantically, it was called gate-crashing when done by the upper classes and housebreaking when done by the lower classes. But the burglar drinking whisky of which he had not been invited to partake, and the Bright Young Thing drinking champagne of which she had not been invited to partake, unconsciously joined hands in one great forward and progressive urge to sweep away the old superstition of hospitality. Hospitality has a hundred horrid implications anyhow; it implies that my home belongs to me more than it belongs to an interviewer from a syndicated millionaire newspaper in Detroit; and however heartily and affectionately I may entertain and embrace such an interviewer, there is still a queer atmospheric prejudice hovering in his mind, not to mention mine; the old uncanny and creepy superstition that he is in somebody else’s house. He would undoubtedly be freed from this embarrassment if we met in a large hotel, or a larger and even more impersonal tea-shop, or in a public library, or in a post-office, or in the draughty corridors of a tube station. The very names of these places will suggest that richer warmth, that fuller fraternity, that tingling humanity in all human contacts, which comes to men the moment they have abandoned private property.

Anyhow, it is unnecessary to extend the list of evidences that Christmas does not fit in with this fuller and more liberated life. Christmas must go. Christmas is utterly unsuited to the great future that is now opening before us. Christmas is not founded on the great communal conception which can only find its final expression in Communism. Christmas does not really help the higher and healthier and more vigorous expansion of Capitalism. Christmas cannot be expected to fit in with modern hopes of a great social future. Christmas is a contradiction of modern thought. 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. Dealing with matters purely psychic, it naturally has no interest for psychologists; having been the moral atmosphere of millions for more than sixteen centuries, it is of no interest to an age concerned with averages and statistics. It is concerned with the happiest of births and is the chief enemy of Eugenics; it carries along with it a tradition of voluntary virginity, yet it contains no really practical hints for compulsory sterilization, At every point it is found to be in opposition to that great onward movement, by which we know that ethics will evolve into something that is more ethical and free from all ethical distinctions. 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.

But why go on piling up the praises of Christmas? All its gifts and glories are externally symbolized in that fact already sufficiently summarised; that it is a nuisance to all the people talking the particular nonsense of our own time. It is an irritation to all men who have lost their instincts; which is very truly the intellectual equivalent of losing their senses. It is a perpetual annoyance to the cads who are not only captains of industry, but captains of information and international news, and everything else in the present paradise of cads. It is a challenge to caddishness, because it reminds us of a more gracious world of courtesy; and of customs which assumed a sort of dignity in human relations. It is a puzzle to pedants whose cold hatred involves them in a continual contradiction; who are distracted between denouncing Christmas because it is a Mass, or purely Popish mummery, and trying to prove at the same time that it is entirely heathen, and was once as admirable as everything else invented by the pirates of heathen Scandinavia. It stands up unbroken and baffling; for us one thing, for them a confusion of inconsistencies; and it judges the modern world. Christmas must go. It is going. In fact it is going strong.
— "Christmas Must Go" by G. K. Chesterton

 

Listen: I Pray On Christmas by The Blind Boys of Alabama


Today's Readings: Psalm 20, Isaiah 26:1-9, 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Prayer for the Day:  

Lord our God, help us find the path that we may walk with confidence because you are our Father. Banish all thoughts that try to depress us. Let your Spirit drive them away. May our hearts become quiet before you, because you, the Almighty, guide everything for the good of people on earth. Everything will lead to thanksgiving, to your praise and glory. Be with us at all times, day and night. May our hearts always exult afresh, rejoicing in you, our God and our Savior. Amen.
— Evening Prayers: For Every Day of the Year

12 Ways To Savor the 12 Days of Christmas (my annual post for Christmastide)