A CHRISTMAS MESSAGE
Grand Lodge Bulletin December 1969
Bro. J. W. Roberts, Grand Chaplin (1969), Grand Master (1998)
[Honorary Life Member of Beacon #190]
The message of Christmas is a universal one, although a Christian Festival, the joy and expectations of the season transcends creeds and definitive theology and creates in man renewed thoughts of love, compassion and hope. Even in cultures and religions where Christmas has no place in their teachings, yet the spirit of Christmas is present, and the season is one of sharing and an expression of the eternal optimism of mankind. Masons everywhere should find implicitly stated in the Christmas message, the deepest truths concerning their relationships to one another and the world around them. In bringing Christmas Greetings to you on behalf of The Grand Lodge, I would like to refer to the writings of an anonymous poet in which he said in part:
“Christmas is a spirit,
and the spirit of Christmas is Peace;
Christmas is a gladness,
and the gladness of Christmas is Hope;
Christmas is an experience,
and the experience of Christmas is Giving”
In these few short lines, he has summarized the meaning of Christmas.
First: Christmas is a spirit and the spirit of Christmas is Peace. Freemasonry at its best is a spirit and finds its expression in the harmonious relationships within the Craft. Throughout our teachings, we find such words as harmony, brotherly love and friendship. We pray that our lodges may be ‘conducted in peace and closed in harmony.’ But in this season, we are urged to do something more than simply wish for “peace on earth, good will among man.” We are called upon, both in and out of the lodge, to pursue and learn of the “things that make for peace.” In the terrible tensions of our time, we may think that peace is an unattainable goal. But before it can become a universal fact, peace must be an individual aspiration. The Mason’s task is always to ‘bring peace to the troubled mind’ and to do what they can to remove the barriers that separate man from man, in the knowledge that we are all children of the Most High.
Second: Christmas is a gladness, and the gladness of Christmas is Hope. We use the word ‘glad’ today in a rather superficial sense, often empty of its original meaning. The old English word from which we derive the word glad, meant ‘bright,’ or ‘gilded with light.’ Christmas is a season, then, that is ‘bright with hope.’ Whoever has seen a little child’s face at Christmas time will see this definition exemplified. The sages of old, in the Volume of the Sacred Law, saw the highest hopes revealed in Light: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in the land of deep darkness, on them has the light shined.” And the beautiful story of the birth of the Christ Child, is best epitomized in a line from a well known Carol ‑‘the hopes and fears of all the years are met in Thee tonight.” For Masons and Christians alike, the step between Faith and Charity is Hope. Our gladest Christmases are the ones that inspire in us the kind of hope the ancients saw.
Third: Christmas is an experience, and the experience of Christmas is Giving. Giving is the active name for Charity, or self giving love. Thomas a Kempis summed it up in these words: “He who lives with purity, considers not the gift of the lover, but the love of the giver.” To many people in our society, charity is a cold word, often devoid of feeling because ‘the love of the giver’ is not present. But to the Mason, charity is an experience ‑ it is love in action, whether in thought, word or deed. It is the giving of ourselves to those both within and without the lodge, without any thought as to whether that love should be requited. Another poet once said that ‘Love came down at Christmas time,’ suggesting that God was sharing his love with mankind in a unique way. It also reminds us that each of us, as children of God, has the task to make our giving ‑ our Charity ‑ so real that God’s name and nature will be revealed in us, and to His name will be the praise. But it can only happen when we express our Charity in such a way that it will be an abiding experience in our hearts. At the very heart of Christmas is this one eternal aspect of the season ‘which extends beyond the grave, to the boundless realms of eternity.’
To close, let me quote another author;
“if on this Christmas Day, I can look into the faces of men and see the love and goodness of God written thereon; and have them see some of his Holy Light of Peace and Good Will mirrored on mine – then on this blessed day, have I touched the hem of the Christ Child’s garment.”
We will also indeed, have touched the Ancient Landmarks of the Craft.