Mexborough & Swinton Times – Saturday 23 December 1939
Recipe for a Happy Christmas
Twenty-two years have rolled by and again we face a war Christmas with what cheerfulness we can muster. There is, alas, much to modify the joy of the season, but we have at least two grounds of cheerfulness. The first is profound thankfulness that our worst fears have not so far been realised and that we have under Providence been mightily protected from calamity. The second is that the war has opened up to us new fields of service, new opportunities of sinking self in the common good.
It does not follow that we have all accepted those opportunities or used them to the full, but at least we have the means of happiness within our grasp, and in its truest form. For it can never be too strongly insisted that the only true happiness is rooted in thought for others. Inward satisfaction founded on selfish gratification is spurious and short-lived. The pleasant Christmas custom of exchanging gifts is the outward and visible sign of a spirit which moves men to self-forgetfulness, and for an all-too-brief season touches them with a sense of the divine.
More blessed still is the condition of those who give with no thought of receiving even the blessing promised in the old carol —”Ye who now do bless the poor, shall in turn have blessing.” If we dwelt too closely on our personal share in the great tragedy that has come upon the world, we should find, without much difficulty, abundant material for a thoroughly miserable Christmas. We have only to think of the crushing disappointment of all our hopes for a peaceful, ordered, prosperous world; of the difficulties, vexations, and irritations involved in accommodating ourselves to a state of war, of the severe—in some cases cruel—personal sacrifices which war has already demanded and is still to demand, of the disastrous dislocation of plans and careers, the destruction of fortunes, the disintegration of homes and of families, the forcible separation of husbands and wives, and parents and children, the hourly dread of the terror by night and the arrow by day, the still greater anxiety for those in the forefront of battle; the petty worries concerning prices, supplies, and expenses; the depressing tale, streaming over us ceaselessly, of battle, murder, and sudden death, of robbery and wrong, and the apparent triumph of brute force in every contest with justice and decency.
It is very hard, amid all this, to remember and accept with faith and conviction, the promise: “Be still, then, and know that I am God and that I will be exalted over all the earth.” Yet in the short history of the human race that promise has been redeemed again and again, and we cannot doubt that once more we shall see “the end of these men.” who even now are “set in slippery places.” Looking to the end, and resolving to abide with Christian courage and patience all that may befall by the way, we may attain that inward peace from which happiness springs. At least our conscience is clear; we are engaged in a war which we could not honourably avoid. If we had taken the dishonourable course, if like the priest and the Levite we had passed by on the other side, leaving this monstrous Hitlerism to work its will unchecked and unresisted, should we be spending a very happy Christmas to-day?
Though we long for peace—never more than at this season of the Prince of Peace—it is better to war with evil than to suffer it, and to surrender our desires to our duties.
In that spirit we entered the war, in that spirit we are fighting to-day, in that spirit we shall conquer. Not for a moment have we or our Allies relaxed our high resolve, or allowed hatred and ferocity to debase the stern temper in which we accepted the arbitrament of war. Christmas cannot be insulated from war, yet we may keep our Christmas cheerfully if we are resolved to do so—for heaven lies all about us, even at the gates of hell. There will be no lack of cheerfulness among our gallant defenders, though they are set in the midst of so many and great dangers.
We have the same reason, with gratitude added, to wish each other a happy Christmas and to do what we can to ensure it.