Of old the heathens celebrated on a certain day each year the harvest that had come to them.
Before the earth had sunk into its annual sleep, it had brought forth enough food to tide man and beast over until once more, its rest being over, it would put on its spring blooms, bring back the migratory birds that they might again raise their broods and fill the air with joyous songs, which were songs of praise for the return of the warm sunshine, at the same songs of hope for the harvest that was to be. The people on this day poured out oblations and offered sacrifices to Zeus, to Hera, to Ceres, to Hermes — the light of the sun — to the Horae, to Pomone — to all the gods and goddesses who annually, in one or another capacity, had brought their harvests. The festival was carried on in games and races and feasting — it was a time of unalloyed gladness for the blessings that had come, for the blessings hoped for.
But still the gladness was earthborn, the hope was limited to this life. But at last there came a day, the events of which were to dissolve the myths of the ages; to broaden the visions of men to beyond the stars; to give to man a dignity only a little below that of the angels, and so to expand the narrow hopes that before had been so limited, to one that had held eternal life in its scope.
The story as told in the New Testament is a simple one, but no other statement inscribed in the writings of men so fraught with grandeur, with majesty; or with a promise so blinding in its splendor.
The simple words, “Peace on Earth and to man of good will,” in their fullness, meant that a time was to come when wars were to cease; the “Fear not!” was, too, a promise that there was to come a time when pain was to be banished and the grave itself was to lose its darkness and its chill. The soft light that shone around the shepherds was a symbol of that time to come when the universe should all be lighted and in the souls of men there should no longer be any dark thought; and when man, all his baser nature eliminated, should stand forth celestial in stature and in life immortal. No wonder that the morning stars on that morning sang together, all their golden axles attuned to a sublime anthem; no wonder the sons of God shouted for joy.
So the harvest festival with oblations and sacrifices to unsubstantial gods, ceased and in their place came our Christmas festival. It is next to the most sacred day of all the year; the anniversary of the birth of the Prince of Peace; the coming of the Immanuel; the anniversary of the day when the longing of the ages gave way to a fized belief; a belief the sweetest and highest and most enobling that’s ever came to bless poor mortality; for it brought the wireless messages of man’s immortality and the certain promise that beyond this there is another life; where while the ages ebb and flow, the soul may go on exploring, with ever increasing knowledge, ever increasing joy in contemplating the immeasurable power and wisdom and mercy of Him who framed the universe and “from whose hand, the centuries fall like grains of sand,” out of whose mind men sprang and that the intention all the time was that he was to be blessed.
We have a right to hail the day, to put lights in our windows to welcome its coming; to fire the yule log even as our ancestors did and with music, with organ and harp and choir and joy bells, to hail its coming; with feasts to welcome it; with humble exultation to rejoice in it, for the blessings that are ours, for the hopes that were kindled and the promises that heaven and earth, God’s messengers and God’s stars untied in a praise service when it was give us. — Goodwin’s weekly
This continues the Appeal’s review of news stories and headlines during its Sesquicentennial year.
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