Merry Christmas 1939

Once we move beyond childhood the Christmas season is a bittersweet experience. That may be why for some of us the season of Advent looms larger now: preparation matters more the day of Christmas itself. Some of us see this day as simply a place to start the Christian year and to end the secular one.

The Christian Liturgical Year is a complex tapestry woven over millennia and borrowing from many cultures. None of the feasts is accidental but almost none is an original creation; each arose in media res to answer a particular need of the moment. It helps to contemplate them in the same way crafty musicians look at the work of musicians who came before them, i.e., as inspired revelations of kindred spirits from whom they are – implicitly at least – free to steal a rhythm, cop a rhyme.

So it is with spiritual traditions. In this case, if you scrape away the accretions of pomp and circumstance to better see the foundations you find the many creative borrowings used to build the edifice of the Christian Liturgical Year. The latter is itself merely a way of marking time in an endless circling and returning to the nodes of a particular life. That’s the thing about Christianity and Western culture: we took a circle and turned it into a spiral . Circles merely repeat. Spirals allow us new perspectives of the same landscape – i.e., our own life’s journey woven into a larger frame.

In truth, we Christians are simply the followers of one obscure rabbi. Limping along, we “amended” Jews are flanked on either side by Roman Law and Greek philosophy. Yet our moral basis remains firmly on the Ten Commandments even as we reach for that Higher Commandment: to love our God with our whole heart, soul, and mind, even as we struggle to love our neighbor as ourselves. Yes, it’s quite a reach, that two-part perfect harmony, especially if you begin at the end, by trying to love yourself. If you’re lucky you may once or twice meet someone who embodies this seemingly impossible “Law”. It’s a Law the same way gravity is though the results of violations are not so immediately seen. Still, we ignore it at our own peril.

Meanwhile it helps to see Christmas (which has grown ever more frenetic and harried as it has detached itself from those angels and shepherds) as simply another example of the endless cycle embedded in our linear history. The holy day of Bethlehem has returned inexorably to the feast it was designed to replace: Saturnalia. Funny how that plus ça change thing works, isn’t it? We are quickly losing our taste for empire even as we become more like Rome during its final decadence. You don’t need me to point out sad, desperate parallels.

The Baron has often alluded to our present times as a return to 1939. He’s right: this moment partakes of that same tragedy in some way that is beyond putting into words. When I heard our soldiers had been sent to Saudi Arabia in the days before Christmas, it felt like another shoe dropping from one more foot on the centipede.

Because our blog has somehow turned – or been turned – to face Europe, to bridge the divide that separates us from our forefathers, this Christmas carol from the dark days in France seemed appropriate for this Christmas of 2013:

Yes, my cup of Christmas this year reflects the dregs of the 20th century. That is because those events are still being fought over, lied about, and obfuscated. The more that Great Deception becomes apparent, the more obvious becomes the need to continue speaking about it. Which we will do. I have two other bloggers’ essays to give you, some time in the next few days.

But those horrific actions are about the larger scale of Momentous Events – see Breughel’s “Icarus”. On the every day plane (also see that same painting) I look for inspiration from the people who lived through those days and whose work transcended the darkness. Always it seems when I most need encouragement, someone shows up who embodies things hoped for…

Once, many years ago, I was invited to go dancing in New York City. One man I danced with owned a chemical company of some kind – in Baltimore, if I remember correctly. He had an unmistakable French accent, and since he was obviously from the World War II era, I eagerly plied him with questions about what life had been like then. To my unutterable surprise, it turned out he had been a friend of Gabriel Marcel. More than anyone, Marcel has been my inspiration, the man whose life and work truly mattered to me. To meet someone who had known him, someone who had also worked in the Underground in France while he taught ballroom dancing to the Nazis in his above-ground life…I still cannot describe the feeling that stayed with me long after that brief encounter.

Perhaps that’s all we need to make sense out of life during the darkening times: someone who shows us by their own lives how to live our own. Gabriel Marcel shuffled off this mortal coil some years ago. And now, a mystery among many, I share my life with the Baron, the one person who knows me better than I know myself but who is willing to sit down to supper with me anyway.

And in turn we share our lives with you, our readers?? How wondrous strange. Marcel said that life was not a problem to be solved but a mystery to be lived. The fact that we are all together here, briefly on the same page, gives me a glimmer of what he meant. Meanwhile, before we trudge onward, do you by any chance have a fife in that back pack of yours? Please play us a marching tune.

22 thoughts on “Merry Christmas 1939

  1. I love your writings! Y’all are such a blessing to those of us who realize the “perilous” times within which we live. Keep the faith! I speak for many on this Christmas Day: We love y’all!

  2. Well, here’s hoping that what follows this Christmas won’t be anything like that which followed the Christmas of 1939 – or 1938 for that matter… from a Poland hit by a burst of global warming (40 degrees Fahrenheit today), Merry Christmas to you and the Baron!

    • I think it was warmer in Denmark today than it was here. OTOH, it was 70 F when we went to town a few days ago. I had to toss aside my long underwear for the duration, and the Baron turned on the fan upstairs. The cold front came through as we were driving home, providing us with a wondrous sunset.

      Now it’s back to frost crackles on the windows and resurrected long johns.

  3. Merry Christmas to you and the Baron Dymphna, I was alive and conscious at Christmas 1939 so this is very moving, thank you!

  4. A thought just occurred to me: wouldn’t it be good reading to have both Dymphna and the Baron in conversations together in a single blog article? I thought about it because both of you have different styles of expression and writing. Additionally, I don’t believe there are many blogs, especially political ones, where husband and wife are contributors on the same blog. I wonder if it is possible and what others think of that format.

    • Hmmm…dear William what a parlous thought! We don’t have conversations so much as we more or less interrupt one another because one thought leads to another which leads to a tangent, and then another irruption –erm, interruption.

      And we’ve been married so long we can usually finish one another’s thoughts. We even manage to change each other’s thinking at times.

      [OT and please don’t follow me here, but..For example, the Baron has made me see the damage that Snowden fellow has done. Not that the whole thing isn’t corrupt, but some actions make it worse, you know?]

      Anyhow, your idea has merit. I will get the asbestos gloves and we can *maybe* do something for the next fundraiser. (I had typed “hair raiser” before I knew what I was about. That is a very wicked idea of yours, W.)

  5. To all,

    Merry Christmas!
    Kala Christougennea!
    Frohlich Weinach!
    Sheng Dan kuai le!
    Joyeux Noel!
    Suksan wan Kritmat!
    Gledelig Jul!
    Feliz Navidad!
    Yom Tov Shalom!

  6. Thank you for this wonderful article. You and the Baron each contribute such magically interweaving elements to the tapestry of this web site.

  7. A good article. I am of the Reformed persuasion myself, and we tend to be wary of holidays other than the weekly Sunday remembrance of the resurrection of Jesus. However, the Second Helvetic Confession allowed for non-binding observance of holidays based on the life of Christ as adiaphoric.

    I’m rather fond of the advent season myself. Some of the best hymnody of our Lutheran brethren was written for the season (Wie Schoen Leuchtet; Wachet Auf Rufft uns die Stimme, Es ist ein Ros’ entsrpungen). But, most of all, it calls on us to focus on prophecy, both of the Lord’s first advent and his coming one.

    I’m not one who sees prophecy focused on a strip of Middle Eastern land, although I am Jewish on my father’s side. Rather, prophecy especially speaks to Christians. We’ve not focused on the saving message of Christ as we should have, and have allowed too many evil fruits of idolatry to spring up among us (sorry, folks, but I can’t see homosexuality as anything else). I have often wondered if the current Islamic resurgence isn’t like God’s use of Assyria to chastise Israel way back when (cf. Isaiah 10:5, ff.) But, just as the door to Israel’s repentance was always open, so is such a door for us. I pray that in the upcoming year we take it.

  8. There is something heartbreaking to watch the soldiers receive their Christmas dinners, cigar, champagne, and entertainment, when one knows what awaits them after the start of the new year. It emphasizes how ephemeral our grasp of life is.

    • That is what drew me to that video. It wasn’t where I’d planned to go.

      Our own grasp on life is indeed becoming ever more ephemeral as we watch the barbarians, already infiltrated and in place, sowing destruction. ObamaCare is just one example.

  9. Sweden 1939: “OUR PREPAREDNESS IS good”.

    Swedish prime ministers are in the habit of lying to the people –
    more to-day than ever before, indeed.
    Now multiculturalism shall be implemented, the constitution says so.
    Sweden shall perish.
    Good Bye.

      • Dymphna, I couldn’t agree more. Having read Kong Zi, Tang poetry, Heine, the Old Testament, the New Testament, and some of the Greek Church Fathers in the original languages, having a spoken acquaintance with Thai and Hakka, and family ties to a lot of Eurasia, I’d like to call myself “multicultural”. But the crew that uses that term strikes me as rather “anti-cultural” more than anything else.

        However, much as the SD’s and their Democrat wannabes in American have wreaked a lot of havoc, I’m not sure that the war, or even the battle, is lost.

      • In New Sweden and from New Sweden – land of stupidity or idiocy – call it Absurdistan or Kretinostan – both names are equally valid, there is no reason to wish for a Merry Christmas or a Happy New Year. Each new year can only get more abysmal than the former.
        – – – – –

        All Sweden shall live – Wellfare Immigration will save the Swedish countryside.

        New Swedish residents, mostly Mohammadans, who have got here illegally from the developing world to get access to the welfare system are the saviors of the countryside. The salvation consists of all those tens of thousands of immigrants, now mainly from Syria, that each week travel illegally to Sweden and are placed in asylum places all around the country.”

        “There is namely a need for more new Swedes also in rural areas. The [passport- and documentless] Swedish newcomers should ideally get citizenship as quickly as possible. New skills and attitudes are needed to contribute to the development in different forms – just imagine what an inspiration Swedish newcomers will provide, if allowed to remain as true Swedish itizens. Democracy, Diversity and Equality shall charterize our communities and therefore we say: Welcome, all of you who need a home, wherever you come from and whoever you are!”
        – – – – –
        • source:

        • picture of asylum lodging in Stockholm suburb Högdalen:åkstad-högdalen.jpg

  10. Thank you Gates of Vienna – a belated happy Christmas and Thank You for your work. A Swan is the perfect metaphor (or is that simile?) for your blog: such elegant serenity on the surface, yet working like mad underneath 😉

  11. Dymphna

    Merry Christmas to you and the Barron. An excellent essay, it took a bit more thought than my Christmas post.

    “I expect to die in bed,
    my successor will die in prison
    and his successor will die a martyr in the public square. His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society
    and slowly help rebuild civilization,
    as the church has done so often in human history

    Francis Cardinal George. Archbishop of Chicago.

    He is possibly a bit optimistic. I think the battle is probably lost
    Though we will not live to see it the war will be won.


    Hank’s Eclectic Meanderings

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