Nothing, or Everything, to Do with Christmas

Last night, I felt a revulsion to entertainment and yet felt too weary to wrestle words by reading, and so sat down and sought something stirring and thoughtful to take in. After several false starts from the Netflix instant queue, I settled upon a strange selection having nothing to do with Christmastime: Ken Burns’ “Civil War” series. I dove headlong into the series: in the past twenty hours, four were spent in the years 1861-1862.

I’m not certain why the sudden fascination, but such has surely overtaken me. As the photographs and illustrations roll by, as the voices speak out of the troubled past their words of fear, wonder, love and loss, I am enthralled, and I cannot but feel a sharp disgust with the weak sentiments of our own age compared with theirs. The simplest soldier wrote with a clarity, a humour, a wit profounder than the trite status updates of our entire generation; he felt Life more keenly than the current race of men. And I cannot but conclude that the brilliance of his meanly educated mind, and the profoundness of his heart, were linked to his faith and to the principle for which he would give his life.

Which leads me to questions by which I accuse myself, and in which I stand indicted: what today are causes for which we feel so strongly? You who abhor abortion as an acceptable practise–how do you oppose it? You who revile racism in its myriad forms–in what way do you rage against it? At what wickedness would you point yourself and launch your whole heart, reckless of yourself, fired as the sole bullet of your living soul, that that evil would no more be?

I think it is perhaps more fitting to the season than I’d first assumed, these reflections on the Civil War. This is a study of blood, of slavery, of suffering and redemption. Pictured in it are face after face of those who lay down their lives for something higher: for some, yes, pride; but for others, the redemption of a nation. And is this not why He also came at Christmastime? He came “to proclaim freedom for the captives, and release from darkness for the prisoners”…

O God, teach me not to live only, but to pour out my life, to live for Your causes.

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