Keeping Christmas

It is a good thing to observe Christmas day. The mere marking of times and  seasons, when people agree to stop work and make merry together, is a wise and
wholesome custom. It helps one to feel the supremacy of the common life over the individual life. It reminds a man to set his own little watch, now and then, by  the great clock of humanity which runs on sun time.

But there is a better thing than the observance of Christmas day, and that is,  keeping Christmas.

To stop asking how much your friends love you, and ask yourself whether you  love them enough; to bear in mind the things that other people have to bear on  their hearts; to try to understand what those who live in the same house with you  really want, without waiting for them to tell you; to trim your lamp so that it will  give more light and less smoke, and to carry it in front so that your shadow will  fall behind you; to make a grave for your ugly thoughts, and a garden for kindly feelings, with the gate open – are you willing to do these things even for a day?
Then you can keep Christmas.

Stronger than hate, stronger than evil, stronger than death – and that the blessed  life which began in Bethlehem two thousand years ago is the image and brightness  of the Eternal Love?
Then you can keep Christmas.

And if you keep it for a day, why not always?
But you can never keep it alone.

Are you willing to believe that love is the strongest
thing in the world?

Are you willing to forget what you have done for
other people, and to remember what other people have
done for you?

Are you willing to stoop down and consider the needs
and the desires of little children; to remember the weakness and loneliness of people who are growing old?

Are you willing to believe that love is the strongest
thing in the world?

Are you willing to forget what you have done for
other people, and to remember what other people have
done for you?

Are you willing to stoop down and consider the needs
and the desires of little children; to remember the weakness and loneliness of people who are growing old?

To ignore what the world owes you, and to think what you owe the world; to put your rights in the background, and your duties in the middle distance, and your chances to do a little more than your duty in the foreground; to see that your fellow-people are just as real as you are, and try to look behind their faces to their hearts, hungry for joy; to own that probably 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; 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 – are you willing to do these things even for a day?
Then you can keep Christmas.

By Henry Van Dyke

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