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Letter # 21

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to you all!

We wish you all a safe and merry Christmas!

There is so much more to Christmas than presents to each other, cooking large and heavy meals, opening bottles of good wine and enjoying festivities. It is a great deal more! I know that Charles Dickens is regarded as a sentimentalist. Well, we can do with a little sentiment in these days when men's minds are turning perpetually towards destroying everything and if possible everybody! There is one book written by Charles Dickens which I read every year: The Christmas Carol.

Listen to the unrefined, unenlightened Scrooge talking. He is speaking to his nephew, a pleasant cheerful fellow, possessing a warm heart, and loving life. He came to wish his uncle a "Merry Christmas".

Scrooge mounts his hobby-horse and says: "What's Christmas time to you, but a time for paying bills without money; a time for finding yourself a year older, and not an hour richer; a time for balancing your books and having every item in 'em through a round dozen of months presented dead against you? If I could work my will, every idiot who goes about with 'Merry Christmas' on his lips should be boiled with his own pudding and buried with a stake of holly through his heart!"

That is Ebenezer Scrooge, and that is how a good many people talk these days, though they may use different words.

"Christmas! Sentimental twaddle! Wasting money on silly cards smothered in robins and holly. It's so childish! Spending money which you cannot afford on trifles. A merry Christmas, why not a Merry Monday or a Merry Bank Holiday! Pah!"

Here is the answer which his nephew gave Scrooge:

"There are many things from which I might have derived good, by which I have not profited, I dare say, Christmas among the rest. But I am sure that I have always thought of Christmas time when it has come round ... as a good time - a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow passengers ... and not another race of creatures. And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket I believe that it HAS done me good, and WILL do me good, and I say, God bless it."

That young man was right, he was right in 1852, and he is right today. There is just - something - about Christmas. The Church has other great festivals, and each one brings its own particular message, Christmas holds the beginning of the very foundations of the Christian religion, no matter which sect you may belong to and whose teachings and forms you may follow.

They're all "simple" teachings: to be kind, forgiving, charitable, and pleasant. To set aside Christmas as a time for friendliness and brotherhood. We may not observe all those things for very long, we may forget them on the morning of Boxing Day, but if we have felt them for one day in the year - well, that is something.

So on Christmas Day when you hear that grandest and most triumphant of all hymns, no matter whether you hear it rolling out of a great organ in some vast cathedral, played on a wheezy instrument in some small village church, or even on the radio or on a record, let the full magnificence of the Adeste Fidelis be an actual demand! "Come all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant!" and be joyful, and open your hearts and - enjoy yourself, and have a Merry Christmas.

Best wishes and from us all!
Peter & Padma & Malty & Rover
and the Possum in his Possum Penthouse, the resident kangaroo,
the almost-tame kookaburra, and all other creatures great and small.
11 December 2004



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