It is a mere fact of English history that the idea of a Merry Christmas was maintained much more faithfully by the ragged carol singers than it was by the Merry Gentlemen to whom they sang their carols.  The Merry Gentlemen were disposed to become decidedly Dismal Gentlemen in the Puritan terror of the seventeenth century.  It was among the populace that Christmas was suppressed with difficulty; many of the political squires, and nearly all the merchant princes, lent their aid to suppress it.  Christmas had only survived so late as that by the loyalty and tenacity of peasants and other poor men.  And, if poor men could keep Christmas, surely we can keep Christmas as if we were poor men.

“ON THE CHRISTMAS TRADITIONS OF THE POOR” by G. K. Chesterton

Illustrated London News, December 29, 1917

We are bombarded by them…the sights, sounds and images of the New Christmas…the Christmas that was never meant to be.  It is the Christmas of the bow-wrapped Lexus, the spangle and sparkle of diamonds glinting in the teary eyes of the happy recipient…the glazed eyes of children, moving from package to package, only to exclaim:  Is that all?

This New Christmas was created by the gods of commerce.  Tradesmen and hawkers.  Those who line their pockets with the coins of those who have fallen for this lie:  joy can be purchased…and, may God have mercy, even financed.

But we know the truth, don’t we?  We’ve seen His star.  We know the wonder of Silent Night and Adeste Fideles, and yet…the world sings an alluring tune and begs us dance.  And in this dance, we risk becoming Dismal Ladies and Gentlemen…whirling and twirling to this new Pied Piper’s tune, victims of the New Christmas…casualties in the war against that which is holy…sacred.

In the midst of excess, of rush and stress, are the beautiful faces and voices of the poor…those beautiful “carolers” who sing of want and humility, hands outstretched in hope of comfort, in trust that we will hear their songs and not close the door…

The poor, as Christ reminds us, will always be with us.  Is this cruelty?  Does our Lord and God revel in their suffering, measure His greatness by their want?

No.  Not at all…for He came among us as one of them.  The poorest of the poor.  To show us a life lived with nobility and in loving sacrifice.  It is the poor who teach us the most…yet it is at the feet of the greedy mercenary, that we seem to take our lessons:

You can have it all…

You deserve the best…

You should spare no cost to have what you want…

More is the way to happiness…

Many, many years ago I was, unquestionably, a Dismal Lady.  I rejoice that our Lord released me from that bondage that I might be a ragged singer of carols.  Oh, the heart that is empty of wanting it all!  The heart than can finally rejoice in the best gifts for the beauty of the heart of the giver, never measuring the cost of what has been given…

I want to live the lessons of love, taught by a poor and shelter-less Family, who welcomed their first born Son, in the humility of a stable on that First Christmas.  I want to keep Christmas as the poor.  To remember:

Gifts are given from the heart, not the pocket book…

That true song wells up from the heart free of attachment to what the world perceives as happiness…

That the Manger, not the Christmas tree, is the source of Life, Love and Joy…

That Christmas isn’t a day…it’s a Season and a state of mind, heart and soul…

That we should strive for less, reserving the very best that we have for this Season…it should stand out, not in terms of what we get, but of what we’ve given…

That true poverty isn’t the same thing as thrift and economy, nor is it starvation and degradation…that it is the embrace of less is more.   That beauty and simplicity complement one another…

Doing without those things that others consider essential (heat, food, transporation, etc.) can be born joyfully, if one chooses and truly considers the source of all.  Everything…everything…everything…comes from the hand of God.  That all…all is a gift, even when it seems to be a deprivation.

Let there be no more Dismal Ladies and Gentlemen this Advent and Christmas Season.  May our world be filled with bands of merry and ragged singers of carols, singing a new song unto the Lord…

Blessings,