Thus, the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had made; and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it He had rested from all his work which He, God, created and made. (Genesis 2: 1-3)
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to people of goodwill. (Luke 2:14)
Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28)
And he said to them: The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. Therefore, the Son of man is Lord also of the Sabbath. (Mark 2:27)
If the Christmas season didn’t exist, business people would find some way to re-invent it. That’s why the anti-Christian hatred that these days more and more openly manifests itself during the Christmas season was so long content to erase the name of Christ, but keep the symbol that once stood for it. That way we eliminate all reference to the holiday’s Divine anointed purpose, but keep the commercially lucrative exchange of goods and favors.
Thanks to the thorough commercialization of Christmas, the season has also become a hectic occasion, full of crowds and bustle, only somewhat mitigated by the rising tide of Internet commerce. The promise of peace on earth takes a back seat to the promising bottom line lifted by the rising tide of purchases that may or may not signify anything like unselfish goodwill. In commercial terms, goodwill is just another asset, cultivated as cynically as any other capital good.
Yet and still, when the purchasing is over and the Christmas cards are sent; with the Christmas lights all glowing, and the hymns toward heaven bent, a peace that’s more than promising still infiltrates the soul; a hiatus touched by Heaven, as God’s messengers foretold. In those times the Christmas spirit speaks of hearth, and home and rest, crossing boundaries of feeling to show people at their best.
It’s sweet to have a season for giving without shame, when we needn’t seek permission to take goodness as our aim. Even in the best of times we’re prone to mistake hardheartedness for virtue; wickedness for wisdom; and high-pitched calls to cower behind walls of enmity, for forthright and courageous calls to battle. Odd as it may seem, Christmas is a time for Spartan virtue; for living in a city without walls, defended rather by the good faith discipline of its people than by rhetorical alarms that count on and foment their fears.
It may be true that good fences make good neighbors, as Frost’s wall-mending neighbor lets us know. But then the poet with the chilly name betrays his warmth:
Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.
Something there is that does not love a wall,
That wants it down.
Yet and still, aren’t walls much like the boundaries that let us know where one thing ends and something else begins? If there were, at least conceivably, no line, no stretch of being not this one or that, how would one know, on either side, where he belonged? Something there is that cannot love at all except, for love’s sake, to erect a wall. It marks the place of safety, a space known and secure, where nothing breaks the harmony that makes assurance sure.
Odd that it is human both to love and yet still hate the wall that marks the boundary that frees us to our fate; that lets us be all that we are by keeping what we’re not at bay; that lets us see our will performed by marshaling change some other way. For if the choice we did not make could easily our choice replace, the way we chose would melt away before what will we have to come could come our way.
Which brings us to the promises of God. He set the world before us, preserving us before we came to be. And yet in being our preserver, had to give Himself away. He had to cease the work that by His being this way and that, finished the work that made each thing, in fact. In this, His seventh day of constant change, he rested from exchanges, keeping all the same. For the sake of all that was to be, he let himself become as nothing, in the Beginning, and also, in the end, when wrested from our way, He chose to set things right again.
At peace with God, Christ robbed himself of peace, so that, by God’s accomplished will, our unintended toil could cease; albeit only if, by faith assured, we trusted life and spirit to God’s will, as Jesus did for all our sakes. For when, in form distinguished, God from God (as we had by our mistaken choice become distinct), He chose to bring us back within the bounds that makes us, separate though we are, yet one with God, as He is one throughout all His Creation.
In this respect, Christ is the LORD at rest, the Sabbath made for man, the guiding boundary that reforms and saves from death our human life as God intended. He came reminding us of God within, to snatch us from the brink of Childhood’s End. That in His person we may, if we will, know gently the Power that rules and shapes all things; but that becomes, for our sake, rest and peace. It is harmless as a newborn babe – commanding with no power but that of love and our not so secret longing to be, as by God’s will we may, wholly at peace with God and all Creation.