The Keeping of Christmas
…… and it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God Bless Us, Every One!
What does it mean to keep Christmas?
Keep – is an action word, a verb. Definitionally speaking, to ‘keep’ means;
1. to hold or retain in one’s possession; hold as one’s own:
2. to maintain (some action), esp. in accordance with specific requirements, a promise, etc.: ‘to keep watch; to keep step.’
3. to cause to continue in a given position, state, course, or action: ‘to keep a light burning; to keep a child happy.’
4. to maintain in condition or order, as by care and labor: ‘He keeps his car in good condition.’
The closing lines from Charles Dicken’s classic fable of redemption haunted me after we saw the Disney adaptation of A Christmas Carol this past week. It is a story that I love, and I never tire of seeing the transformation that Scrooge undergoes as he is confronted with not only the bleak circumstances of his own spiritual interior but even more importantly the impact his actions continue to have on others and the grim spectre of his eventual demise and the torments awaiting him beyond the shroud, for having lived his life in his fashion, which was all about his own selfishness.
There are a host of lessons here in this tale for the astute RM. I’ll spare you a lot of sanctimonious droning concerning anything related to the typical Christmas messaging, e.g. Im not going to talk about commercialization, or moan about how things have changed from when I was X years old, etc.. Neither does the keeping of Christmas in my estimation have anything to do with how much money you do or don’t have, or the giving and receiving of gifts. Being a RM means knowing how to live passionately and with grace in whatever circumstances one finds oneself and besides, this holiday season isnt lacking for vivid examples of those among us that seemingly have everything, but through time and circumstance have made themselves and others miserable beyond belief. We do not lack for vivid examples of the traditional sort. You get the picture.
What then, is Keeping Christmas all about? Keeping Christmas, gentle RM is far more about the person you are inside – and who you are becoming, than it is about what you have or what you can acquire. Like it or not, RM – you are a leader, and you teach others what you are all about even if you aren’t directly speaking to them. In our pursuit of the best this life has to offer, let us pause and reflect a moment, recognizing that there are two sides to every coin and as a Renaissance Master it is not enough to have manners and to embody a sense of sang froid – but we also should be cognizant that part of the word gracious also means to give grace – and that grace, being unmerited favor is similar to sunlight – it is most noticeable when its reflected back from something tangible in the material world. Whatever we aspire to become, RM – the proof of the kind of Man or Woman we truly are can be seen in our relationships with others – in how we treat people not only during the holiday season but throughout our lives.
In 1924 Henry Van Dyke wrote a short address entitled “Keeping Christmas” – I leave you with this during this holiday season as its message is both timely and important. May each RM find the happiness and fulfillment you seek in the New Year and from House Obsidian we wish you and all within your Houses peace and joy as we endeavor to Keep Christmas throughout this upcoming year.
Henry Van Dyke
There is a better thing than the observance of Christmas day, and that is, keeping Christmas.
Are you willing…
· to forget what you have done for other people, and to remember what other people have done for you;
· to ignore what the world owes you, and to think what you owe the world;
· to put your rights in the background, and your duties in the middle distance, and your chances to do a little more than your duty in the foreground;
· to see that men and women are just as real as you are, and try to look behind their faces to their hearts, hungry for joy;
· to own up to the fact that probably the only good reason for your existence is not what you are going to get out of life, but what you are going to give to life;
· to close your book of complaints against the management of the universe, and look around you for a place where you can sow a few seeds of happiness.
Are you willing to do these things even for a day? Then you can keep Christmas.
Are you willing…
· to stoop down and consider the needs and desires of little children;
· to remember the weakness and loneliness of people growing old;
· to stop asking how much your friends love you, and ask yourself whether you love them enough;
· to bear in mind the things that other people have to bear in their hearts;
· to try to understand what those who live in the same home with you really want, without waiting for them to tell you;
· to trim your lamp so that it will give more light and less smoke, and to carry it in front so that your shadow will fall behind you;
· to make a grave for your ugly thoughts, and a garden for your kindly feelings, with the gate open—
Are you willing to do these things, even for a day? Then you can keep Christmas.
Are you willing…
· to believe that love is the strongest thing in the world—
· stronger than hate, stronger than evil, stronger than death—
· and that the blessed life which began in Bethlehem nineteen hundred years ago is the image and brightness of the Eternal Love?
Then you can keep Christmas.
And if you can keep it for a day, why not always?
But you can never keep it alone.