Some reflections of a Christmas past. Thanks to my friend Henry V. Gerike for sending this to me. From Christmas Garlands, Ed. By O. P. Kretzmann, Chicago: The Walther League, 1950. Authorship of the following is presumed to be O. P. Kretzmann’s, although without certainty.
Ho, everyone that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, but, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price (Isaiah 55:1)
OH, COME, ALL YE FAITHFUL!
It really was—and is—a strange and small place for such a great gathering. There was the first cry of a baby and the sound of angels singing—band both were the signal for a crowd of people, uncounted and countless, to come to the mange to touch and see the life and heart of God. The earliest arrivals were a few shepherds, but they were soon joined by a magnificent company, the poor is spirit and the lowly of heart, kings and emperors and scullery maids and little children, philosophers and scientists and grandmothers and babies with a sign and water on their forehead—the most catholic gathering in the history of mankind. The manger is the place for the family reunion of the Church. The invitation to the reunion has many forms—“Oh, come, all ye faithful”—“Ho, everyone that thirsteth”—“Come unto Me”—“Come, let us see”—but is is always the same warm, compelling kindness which brings the unnumbered host of the years since Bethlehem to the Child. This is where we belong. This is really the home of four wandering hearts. This is the lighted lamp in heaven’s window.
Now, as Christmas comes again, I am writing this in a world of disunity and fear. Many of my generation have no home, and they are lonely in the dark. They see ghosts and shadows in the night of their confusion, and they hate the strange and fearful things that are abroad in the dusk. They have some demonic dogs in their hands—bombs and planes and guns—and somehow they feel that these may bring them peace and a little happiness, just a little before their dark world blows up in an unearthly and final flash of light.
They are wrong, of course. The things they fear in the night, crawling and flying and touching their stricken souls, are very real; but the manner in which they want to drive these hateful things away is unreal and bad. Above all, their fear of one another—of other members of the human family—can drop away only at the family reunion to which they are once more invited in 1949. “Oh, come, all ye faithful” is an invitation, not only for saints, but above all for sinners. And that is what we are, terribly and stubbornly, now in 1949.
Many of us will be home for Christmas. The house will be warm and lighted. There will be a tree and toys and children singing and music from the far corners of the earth. But it will mean very little, even all this joy, if it is not an echo of another homecoming with God’s family at the manger. He wanted us to come that first night, lying still under the roof of a stable. He still wants us to come, and since we really have no other place to go to see God, we had better come quickly and quietly.
Surely, now in 1949, the world’s inn is noisier and more crowded than ever before. It would a bad place to stay this Christmas Eve. But the manger! The great company there, the faithful, stand quiet and forgiven, the joy of heaven in their hearts and the peace of God on their faces. With happy eyes they see the dusty rafters as the dome of heaven and the manger as the cradle of the Eternal, the straw on the floor as the Milky Way under His feet, the angels still singing, as they have these many years: “Oh, come, all ye faithful!”