Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

December 30, 2007


Keeping Christmas is a wonderful idea for the New Year


      Christmas is over. We ate too much. We have thrown away the wrapping paper, saved the bows, and cannot remember who gave us what. Now we turn to football games by the dozen and ponder resolutions for the New Year.

          As we say goodbye to Christmas, I can think of nothing more beautiful to share with you than my favorite piece by Henry van Dyke. Van Dyke was a Presbyterian pastor and later in life professor of English literature at Princeton University. He was born in Germantown, Pennsylvania, in 1852 and died in 1933.

          Van Dyke was a gifted writer and published several books. You may recall reading some quotations credited to him. Here are two good ones:  

Use the talents you pos­sess, for the woods would be ve­ry sil­ent if no birds sang ex­cept the best.”

Time is too slow for those who wait, too swift for those who fear, too long for those who grieve, too short for those who re­joice, but for those who love, time is eter­ni­ty.”

But surely the best thing for which van Dyke is remembered is his marvelous essay on “Keeping Christmas.” I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

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 see that your fellow men are just as real as you are?

To try to look behind their faces to their hearts,

hungry for joy?

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?

To admit that 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?

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 who are growing old?

To stop asking how much your friends like you?
and ask yourself whether you love them enough?

To trim your lamp so that it will give more light and less smoke,

And to carry it in front so your shadow will fall behind you?

To try to understand what those who live
in the same house with you really want,
without waiting for them to tell you?

To make a grave for your ugly thoughts
and a garden for your kindly feelings?

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 death --
and that the blessed life which began in
Bethlehem nineteen hundred years ago is the image
and brightness of eternal love?

Then you can keep Christmas.

But you can never keep it alone.


Happy New Year! + + +