Frank William Boreham 1871-1959

Frank William Boreham 1871-1959
A photo F W Boreham took of himself in 1911

Monday, December 24, 2007

Boreham on Christmas at Midsummer

Christmas is once more with us, although the migrants who have poured into Australia during the year may be pardoned if they find some little difficulty in recognising it.[1] To those who were reared in the older lands of the Northern Hemisphere, an Australian Christmas must always seem a weird, uncanny hotch-potch. Every Englishman settled in Australia cherishes in his heart a fond, though frantic, hope. He knows that it can never be realised; the stars in their courses are fighting against him; he is but crying for the moon. Yet, even though he be permitted to spend a hundred Summers beneath these sunnier skies, he will never quite relinquish that pleasing and passionate illusion.

He will steal furtively to the window every Christmas morning and will throw up the blinds to see if, at long last, his dream has all come true. How he would love to see the whole horizon a sheet of dazzling whiteness! He wants the snow; the graceful, fluttering snow; the deep and drifting snow; and, however long he lives, Christmas can never be Christmas to him without it. In his inmost heart he recognises that, in the nature of things, the old English Christmas can never be duplicated on Australian soil. The fireside frolics do not dovetail with the heyday of harvest-time. The things that pertain to the traditional Yuletide—the snowman in the garden and the snowballing on the street, the skating on the lake and the frosty walk to church; the snapdragons in the kitchen, and the ghost story in the flickering firelight—these, sigh for them as we may, can never fall within the range of Australian experience.

Christmas Is Christmas Under Any Stars
Yet it makes no difference. The yearning abides. Southey avers that, however long a man lives, the first 20 years of their life will always be the biggest half of it. The thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts. The first two decades of our existence fasten upon our hearts sentiments and traditions that will dominate all our days. A man who has spent childhood and youth in the old lands of the north may come to Australia, may make himself perfectly at home here and win their way to happiness and prosperity. Yet whenever he beholds Father Christmas wiping the perspiration from his brow as he wanders among the roses and the strawberries of our fierce Australian mid-summer, he will feel secretly sorry for the good old man. He seems to be casting about for snowflakes and icicles and finding only cool drinks and ice creams.

Yet, after a very few years on this side of the planet, migrants discover to their delight that the joys of Christmas-tide are not restricted to any particular season of the year, nor are they bounded by the accidents of climate. Christmas is Christmas, whether it comes in Winter or in Summer, in drifts of snow or in a blaze of floral beauty. The lovely spirit of the thing remains the same, however its trappings and externals may change. Beneath scorching suns or amid glistening hoar frost, Christmas-time is the time when we all think a little more kindly of the people concerning whom we have cherished bitter thoughts. It is the time when we remember with a tug at the heart old friends whom we had almost forgotten. It is the time when we think of the poor, when we think of the children's stockings, when we think of each other, and think a good deal more of the pleasures that we can give than of the pleasures that we can get. Snow time or strawberry time, Christmas-time is Christmas-time.

The Yule Message Cosmopolitan And Perennial
And, after all, what have Summer or Winter, heat or cold, to do with the message that will be pealed by all the Christmas bells and carolled by all the Christmas choirs during the approaching festival? If Christmas means anything, it means that, at Bethlehem, heaven came palpitatingly close to earth. God so loved the world that He gave His Son. Humanity was bankrupt. As Matthew Arnold puts it, "on that old Pagan world disgust and secret loathing fell." Civilisation was played out. History seemed to be rushing towards the abyss. Wistful eyes turned in every conceivable direction in hope of finding a path to better things. Then, just as men were most tempted to yield to stark despair, the astonishment of the ages broke upon them. In the words of Dr. George Macdonald:

They all were looking for a King
To slay their foes and lift them high;
Thou cam'st a tiny baby thing
That made a woman cry.

The shepherds heard the angels sing their Gloria in Excelsis; the wise men saw the beckoning star blaze in their gloomy sky; the significance of that Judean idyll gradually dawned upon the nations; the entire course of history was diverted into a new channel, a better day had dawned; men felt that the world could never be quite the same again.

The sublime happening of that first Christmas was not only an incarnation; it was the beginning of innumerable incarnations. As Angelus Silesius sings:

Though Christ a thousand times
In Bethlehem be born,
If He's not born in me
My life is all forlorn.

Thus, the Incarnation multiplies itself a million-fold. The Manger becomes a casket in which all the jewels of divine revelation glitter with ever-growing lustre. Whether Christmas comes to us garlanded by icicles or rosebuds, its central significance and essential glory abide everlastingly the same.

F W Boreham, This Day with F W Boreham, 25 December 2007. (It first appeared in the Hobart Mercury, 23 December 1949.

Image: “The Manger becomes a casket in which all the jewels of divine revelation glitter with ever-growing lustre.”

[1] This editorial appears in the Hobart Mercury on December 23, 1949.