Puer natus hodie in Bethlehem, Alleluia! In the midst of suffering and strife, the earth rejoices at the birth of the Son of God.
This is the joy that Christians throughout the world celebrate. St. John Henry Newman reminds us of the emptiness of Christmas without Christ. He titled some verses with these words on December 25, 1832, when he found himself quarantined in Malta, unable to attend the Christmas service.
Today many people keep a quarantine to avoid falling ill with Covid. Some watch liturgical services online, but many fall away. Like other Christians, they wish to have Christmas without Christ.
Christ dispels the darkness of the world and sin. God sent his only Son into the world to fill us with grace and glory. Newman sings of Christ, the High Priest.
Christmas without Christ reads:
HOW can I keep my Christmas feast
In its due festive show,
Reft of the sight of the High Priest
From whom its glories flow?
From some cold shabby rooms on the port of Valetta in Malta, Newman hears the church bells, and is able to see the towers of a church, but he is physically unable to be with the pastor and congregation to celebrate the great mystery of Christ’s birth.
I hear the tuneful bells around,
The blessèd towers I see;
A stranger on a foreign ground,
They peal a fast for me.
For the young Oxford don, not being able to attend the Christmas service reminds him of a greater loss – the proud rejection of religion by his fellow Britons. In their wealth they have forgotten Christ’s coming in the flesh, and his second coming in Glory.
O Britons! now so brave and high,
How will ye weep the day
When Christ in judgment passes by,
And calls the Bride away!
Is not this the same course men follow throughout the world who keep an empty and external festivity? They know not Christ; they have removed Him from Christmas. Thus there is no deep joy in their hearts at Christmas or Easter.
Your Christmas then will lose its mirth,
Your Easter lose its bloom:
Abroad, a scene of strife and dearth;
Within, a cheerless home!
But what will we, God’s children, do today and during the Octave of Christmas? Will we meditate on the Scriptures? Will we pray with devotion before the Nativity Scene? What works of charity will be practiced? Christ’s name must be on our lips, in our hearts and in our minds. Only then will our homes and workplace, and our world have peace and joy.