Venite Adoremus. Happy Advent, whoever reads this.
I listened to a bit of Christmas-y music last night for the first time this year. What a pleasure to meet those familiar melodies in the middle of winter.
Chesterton says in The Everlasting Man that even speaking merely historically, the celebration of Christmas is one of the great gifts that the world has received from the Christian faith. It’s an enchanting thought, and ever since I read this suggestion, I’ve never been able to escape it.
The remarkable thing about Christmas, for Chesterton, is how it brings together, irrevocably, the idea of childhood and the idea of divinity. Jesus in the manger is God made weak and frail.
Before the Church, according to Chesterton, there was no particular reason for associating divinity with a human birth, and perhaps many reasons not to, even though there was no reason why it should have been strictly impossible either. It just wasn’t an association that was made with any particular force or frequency in the pre-Christian world.
However, once the Church drew such a strong connection between the imagery of the child and the notion of divine incarnation, and gave it such a prominent place in the liturgy, the connection could never be unmade. No one who ever saw this juxtaposition, which was made so earnestly, would be able to forget it, whether or not they accepted the faith to which that juxtaposition belonged.
Childhood and divinity are now permanently and inextricably linked across the world. Now we cannot look at a baby without having some intuition of divinity, and we likewise cannot pray without a sense of the eternal youthfulness and innocence of God.
I was reminded of Chesterton’s reflections last night as the Christmas music meandered through the house while I watched my little son, who was intensely focused on some small puzzle that was resisting his efforts.
“O come let us adore him,” the music invited. My eyes, watching my child, were full of love. It was a powerful moment, beyond words.