Is it possible to say anything new about Christmas? Probably not. But each year brings a new emphasis to each of us, and the retelling of the old story strikes a responsive chord in us that we have never discovered before now. Perhaps you feel like "Orphan Annie" did last Sunday when she said "It's nothing you can put your finger on; it's just a sort of fever or something that seems to hit everybody, everywhere, this time of year". Or just as possibly you may have some orthodox convictions which define your feelings quite explicitly, and give you great personal satisfactions.
At times I wish I belonged to the latter class. But convictions are elusive for those not gifted with resignation. So I am forever looking for the common middle ground, when intelligent people form into groups and observe one event and see as many different pictures as there are groups. When I studied fractions we sought the Greatest Common Denominator (perhaps they call it something else now); but the object was to manipulate the Joneses and Browns until they all looked like Smiths, and then we could do something with them.
Now I much prefer orthodoxy to Annie. She is just plain pish-posh. And orthodoxy does really get somewhere. This isn't a quarrel with orthodoxy, for I have the greatest admiration for any strong faith.
As I said before, I'm not one of those lucky folks who have found the final answers; so I'm forced to apply the G. C. D. method to the diversified observations of my more fortunate brethern in order to attain some personal satisfactions from our great world-wide institution of Christmas.
There is something to be said for Annie too. She has caught the spirit of giving; her instincts are sound: but I blame her for not thinking things through. Why is it so difficult for such a large percentage of us to realize the everlasting truth of the gift benefitting the giver? It is the simplest proposition in the world to prove, yet you and I spend half our time trying to prove the contrary; and half the people in the world, not to mention Hamilton, go to their graves without even trying it.
Well, Christmas is almost synonymous with generosity then. I think we can all agree with that. But what kind of generosity? Ah, there's the rub! Be perfectly frank with yourself, and see if you can name say five gifts or greetings which you have sent this year which were not inspired by the thought of similar remembrances coming to you. And how much of this has been just plain drudgery to you? Now don't feel offended: I'm a worse offender than you.
One of the most difficult problems of the generous rich, judging from what I have read, is the enormous amount of forethought required in their giving to avoid unworthy use of their beneficence. Undoubtedly that is a practical necessity. Great good has come by these means which could not be accomplished by any other means. But I cannot conceive of any great satisfaction coming to the donor under these circumstances; it must be a nightmare of worry. An essential quality of the spirit of Christmas is lacking in wholesale impersonal giving. It must be personal; at least in your imagination.
Another essential quality is uncalculating generosity. This implies the service of self without self as an objective. We see notable examples of such people wherever we go, and jocularly remark "Their reward will be in Heaven". But the plain truth is there is a reward here and now for those who give without thought of reward, and are embarrassed by a mere "Thank you". Secret good deeds are the best insurance to being good company to oneself.
The G. C. D. boils down to the simple ideal of Peace and Good-will. Simple, yet packed full of the greatest opportunity for truth, beauty, and goodness the world has ever known.
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