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The power of Christmas

You might be surprised when you learn where the following comes from.

Christmas is such a unique idea that most non-Christians accept it, and I think sometimes envy it. If Christmas is the anniversary of the appearance of the Lord of the Universe in the form of a helpless baby, it’s quite a day. It’s a startling idea, and the theologians, who sometimes love logic more than they love God, find it uncomfortable. But if God did do it, He had a tremendous insight.

People are afraid of God and standing in His very bright light. But everyone has seen babies and almost everyone likes them. So, if God wanted to be loved as well as feared, He moved correctly here. And if He wanted to know people, as well as rule them, He moved correctly, because a baby growing up learns all there is to know about people.

If God wanted to be intimately a part of Man, He moved correctly. For the experience of birth and familyhood is our most intimate and precious experience.

So, it comes beyond logic. It’s what a bishop I used to know called a kind of divine insanity. It is either all falsehood or it is the truest thing in the world. It is the story of the great innocence of God the baby. God in the power of Man. And it is such a dramatic shot toward the heart, that if it is not true, for Christians, nothing is true.

So even if you did not get your shopping all done, and you were swamped with the commercialism and frenzy, be at peace. And even if you are the deacon having to arrange the extra seating for all the Christmas Christians that you won’t see until Easter, be at peace. The story stands.

It’s all right that so many Christians are touched only once a year by this incomparable story. Because some final quiet Christmas morning, the touch will take.

Lovely sentiments, from a unique angle. Ready for the Big Reveal, then? Here it comes.

Of all the great and small events of 1991, the death of CBS News’ “60 Minutes” co-host Harry Reasoner probably rates near the bottom in the amount of attention afforded it by the public.

When Harry died, I recalled a commentary he did when he worked for ABC News in the early 1970s. The commentary was an unlikely one for a man of his position. Most people believe that news people, particularly those at the network level, rarely think of much beyond current events and their own careers. But Harry was different, and his easy-going manner allowed him to address subjects others might approach with more difficulty.

On Christmas Eve, 1973, in the midst of growing turmoil over the Watergate scandal, a troubled economy, wars and rumors of wars in the Middle East and uncertainty over the future of U.S.-Soviet relations, Harry delivered the following commentary…

Not only a journo, a 60 MINUTES journo at that. Go ahead, pick your chin up off your chest as Cal Thomas takes us on home.

Christmas has a power over those who observe it, and those who do not, that is unlike any other holiday or event. The other 364 days of the year we can be caught up in affairs of world-shaking significance, but on Christmas it is as if all systems shut down and we are given a chance to focus on something of greater significance than the headlines or the vacuous babble of television. Perhaps for some this Christmas, the touch will take.

I imagine so. I’ll take it as my cue to excerpt one of my own Christmas posts of yore.

Most of my pleasures in life somehow seem to involve loud noises. The sound of a full-auto .45 caliber Thompson submachine gun rapidly slinging a ton of lead, the “tink” of the shattered shards bouncing off steel targets: ecstasy. The full-throated roar of a finely-tuned, straight-piped, and hot-rodded Harley as you wind it up way too high in second gear and blast like a bullet down a city street or country lane: instant penile tumescence. The sound of a viciously-attacked electric guitar settling deeply into an open A-chord coming through a cranked-up old Fender or Marshall Plexi amp, razoring through your skull as the amp’s tubes simply scream for mercy and the bass and drums thump you in the chest actually disrupting your heart rhythm, and pink-haired nose-pierced vixens and tattooed greasy-haired half-thugs bump into you on the way to the front row: nothin’ more fun than that. The halfwit roar of a house party reaching its peak, with shouted conversations and loud music and shattering glass forming a near-symphonic crescendo: nothing like it but more of it; bring it on. These are a few of my favorite things. After all these years of hard living, I seem to have turned into a lumpen sort of Mr Rogers Antichrist, the direct opposite of the calm demeanor and dulcet soothing pablum presented by ol’ Fred. Eardrum damage, permanent hearing loss, and general angst, with a thrumming undertone of perpetually-imminent knucklehead violence, seem to go with the territory in the seedy environs of Mr Hendrix’s Neighborhood. Even the cockroaches make an unusually loud crunch when you crush ’em.

But Christmas is different. When I was in New York, I thought Christmas was just the greatest. At Christmas I just feel, I dunno, lighter somehow.

And now I’m back again in the most citified part of a generally-countrified region, and I can drive past farms all lit up at night with decorations and candles and such, or I can cruise around my neighborhood with the heat turned up and the radio turned down and poke gentle fun at the gaudiness and tackiness of the electric Santas and neon reindeer perched on the roofs or mock-grazing in the yards. And I love every bit of it. I do, so help me.

Breathes there a man with soul so dead that he doesn’t feel at least a little thrill when George Bailey stands on that snow-swept bridge with his mouth bleeding and his hair and clothing all askew and yells “Whaddya know about that! Merry Christmas!”? Or can keep himself from choking up just a little when Harry walks in smiling and toasts “To my brother George: the richest man in town”? Come on, guys, we’re all men here (even the women, in a sense); you can admit it – there’s no shame in it as far as I’m concerned.

And then there’s Christmas Day itself. On Christmas Day I will be running around between my dear departed dad’s side of the family, my mom’s, and my girlfriend’s. Thank heaven her parents never divorced, I’ll say that. I’ll get to see relatives I don’t see all that much of anymore, some of whom I loathe but most of whom I love very much indeed. I’ll eat way too much and receive unanticipated gifts I scarcely deserve, some from people who don’t even know me all that well anymore but thought to get me something anyway. Oh, the greed. Oh, the stinking and uniquely American avarice. Bah, humbug. And at some point, usually during the drive from my dad’s people to my mom’s (which is a route that takes me through some countryside that is always beautiful no matter how badly the developers try to screw it up, and they’ve labored mightily to in the past several years, believe me), I’ll hear Perry Como or Nat King Cole or Bing Crosby or the Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing one of those tired old chestnuts that we all pretend to be so sick of on the car radio, and the frost on the fields and pasture-land out the window will fairly gleam in the sunlight, and the cows’ and horses’ breath will steam out from their big dumb nostrils, and this certain farmhouse on a hill that my mom always just loved will have its giant Christmas tree lit up in the huge picture window that fronts the road. And then that enveloping quietness will settle deep in my chest where what passes for my soul lives, and I’ll be completely at peace for a moment. For that I’m most profoundly grateful to all things Christmas, because without the entire sum total of the harried millions in New York rushing about like mad worker bees, and the tacky holiday displays in my neighborhood, and the endless TV commercials exhorting us to buy buy buy, and the piped-in music, and the old movies we’ve all seen a million times, and the ever-controversial Baby Jesus manger displays financed probably unconstitutionally with city-government money—without all that, this blessed spiritual convergence of peace and quiet would never happen for us.

And now, looking back over that passage in light of recent events, I don’t believe we can do without it, nor afford to ever lose it.

24 thoughts on “The power of Christmas

  1. Most of my pleasures in life somehow seem to involve loud noises. The sound of a full-auto .45 caliber Thompson submachine gun rapidly slinging a ton of lead, the “tink” of the shattered shards bouncing off steel targets…

    Heh. The CRASH! of a .375 H&H or a .416 Rigby going off, followed by a cinderblock turning into concrete dust a hundred yards down range. 🙂

    I always liked the burbling roar of a big BMW under full throttle in bikes, but then I’ve always been a Beemer kind of guy. The big 950i R1200* I had was sweet.

    Nowadays, though, I really like the laid back quiet of my semi-rural area out in Texoma. Generally only broken by the sound of the coyote pack in full cry serenading us from down in the creek bed.

    * Sorry. Head-up-my-ass-itis. Was typing R1200 and thinking 950i for some reason, and got them transposed on the way to the page. Doh! Fixed now.

    1. Always did like the sound of big bike motors no matter the make. Take a 1000cc Jap engine out of the bike and transplant into an 850 pound Formula 1000 (SCCA) race car and it sounds like a F1 car on it’s way into the 160mph range.

      My favorite sound, unheard since my early 20’s, the sound the 1969 Z-28 302CI engine makes at is crosses 4300rpm where the cam really kicks in and kicks your ass deep into the seat.

      Contrast with the near silence of the sailplane as you thermal in a rising current of air. Just the noise of air kissing the fuselage as it slips by.

      Lots of sounds that are stored in our memory banks bring me pleasure.

      1. Yup. From the “potato potato potato” of a big V-Twin Hog to the burbling roar of a BMW to the ripping sound of a BSA or the growl of an Indian. It’s all good. 🙂

        I love the sound of heavy rifles and handguns, too.

        Heh. Re: Z-28 – I loved my big 440 Challenger for the sound it made as much as the way it would hug curves when cornering.

        I had a 280ZX at one point that was the most fun little sportscar I’ve ever driven. That thing was just neat.

    1. Merry Christmas, Barry! I hope you are having a wonderful day, despite the lockdown tyrants’ attempts to stifle any celebrations but their own.

      1. Hi Haz, all going well here. We are radicals. All the kids and grandchildren will be here this afternoon.

        Cold here and I’m smoking turkeys on the grill. I open the lid and with the wind the temperature inside drops to 30 in about 5 seconds…

        1. Oh, you rebel you.

          I did my grilling indoors on the stovetop cast iron grill. Too damn’ windy and cold out on the patio.

          1. Well, you’re just plain smarter than I am. I actually ran out of the lump charcoal I use, and I started with a new bag. It just took all of it to keep the temps up and then I still had to finish the birds off in the oven, about 15 minutes. But they were delicious. I cooked a couple Cornish hens as well plus we had a honey baked ham. One son brought meatballs, fine ones at that.

            And I am officially stuffed. 8 adults and 6 grandchildren and we had a fine time. The governor and county officials can all piss up a rope.

            1. The governor and county officials can all piss up a rope.

              Funny you should mention that. Just minutes ago I commented elsewhere, concerning the broad powers that are “granted” to governments in emergencies, that these powers are not granted, they are grabbed and generally consented to, tacitly if not expressly.

              What we are seeing is a withdrawal of that consent.

              Incompetent, corrupt, and tyrannical politicians have brought it on themselves. They have no one to blame but themselves as they are ignored and they will have no one to blame but themselves if they are lynched.

              1. My consent for the lockdown/forced mask wearing was over back in March 🙂

                I agree, more people are withdrawing their tacit consent as they realize the government has overstepped their authority and lied to us about the virus all along.

  2. Christmas dinner at Casa ‘Bear:

    Glazed Country Ham.

    And a plate.

    Honey maple bourbon beer brown sugar glazed Country Ham, mashed potatoes, and rice with biscuits and ham gravy, and ham au jous.

    The ham gravy is basically just a red-eye gravy with ham base and ham drippings instead of beef.

    And, let us all give a moment of silence, followed by a round of heartfelt thanks to Kenji Alt-Lopez, the Patron Saint of good eats. And of Serious Eats, even. 🙂

  3. Being Catholic, I went with grilled tuna steaks. Weather was fine, if somewhat cold, down here in east central Florida. I use propane because I’m too lazy to deal with the ashes. But hickory chips gave it a nice flavor to go with the wasabi dip…

    1. *nod* We had grilled Yellow-fin steaks earlier in the week.

      I’m ex Catholic, and I like fish, but ham for Christmas is kinda traditional in my family.

  4. I roasted a turkey. Had planned on baking a ham, but the ham fits it the fridge and the turkey didn’t and it’s been so warm up here that the turkey was already defrosted so I had to cook that sucker on Friday rather than the planned Sunday. 20-1/2 pounds; plenty of leftovers and some to give away, such as to the girl down the street. Despite her parents being Chinese, she’s an American girl and prefers American food and her mother is a lousy cook. When the girl came home for Thanksgiving last month from her first semester of college, she showed up at our door hoping to get something edible; sent her away with a drumstick and a pound each of dark and white meat.

    Didn’t bake any potatoes yesterday, except a sweet potato for my wife and her mother. Turns out we don’t have any baking potatoes. We did, but someone sliced them up for something else. I’d blame the senility, but the mother-in-law (and my wife, for that matter) has never grasped the difference between large Idaho baking potatoes and small white potatoes. Nor between all-purpose white flour, baking flour, and cake flour. She helpfully combined the partial bags of different flours into one container to clean up the clutter in the pantry. Well, I guess if you mix baking and cake flours, they average out to all-purpose flour, if rather expensive all-purpose flour. And ditto for combining other things which looks somewhat alike but aren’t, such as PopTarts in their identical silver pouches. Grandma hasn’t combined all of the dried herbs into one big container, but I figure it’s just a matter of time.

    1. *Chuckle* Lots of help…
      Yea, my fridge is full and most of it went home with the kids.

    2. Hell. We can’t even get large Idaho baking potatoes here for some odd reason. They have things at the grocery store they call “baking potatoes”, but they’re little wimpy things.

      1. Huh, I have no problem getting the large baking potatoes. The two grocery stores I usually go to have a bin with Idaho baking potatoes.

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