Christmas with Chesterton

In Lewis’ Narnia, it was always winter but never Christmas. Luckily in our world it is not always winter and once a year Christmas, and we’re almost there. The holiday feels like a much-needed intermezzo in a not-so-festive year. In fact, Christmas has always been like that, as the first sunrays that burst through the darkness of night.

In this article, I want to provide an outlook on Christmas from the Catholic writer G.K. Chesterton (1874–1936). C.S. Lewis put Chesterton’s The Everlasting Man on his Top 10 books of all time list. The book is an imaginative yet sharp account of human history, from the prehistoric cave man with his reindeer paintings to the historic God-Man, born in a cave and surrounded by animals. Chesterton creatively describes the way Christmas is the culmination of humanity’s story by assessing three characters in the Christmas narrative.

The Shepherds — Mythology

Firstly, there are the shepherds, who represent the “men of the popular tradition (..) the makers of the mythologies.” [1] Mythology was fundamentally the search for the supernatural dimension of reality. All the mythologies found their fulfilment, the shadows found their substance, in God incarnate. The cave of Jesus was “a place of dreams come true. Since that hour no mythologies have been made in the world. Mythology is a search.” Christmas is Myth-become-Fact, to use a phrase from C.S. Lewis. It is the pinnacle of all imagination.

The Magi — Philosophy

Then there are the three magi or kings from the East, who represent the philosophers and mystics of this world. “They were those who sought not tales but the truth of things, and since their thirst for truth was itself a thirst for God, they also have had their reward.” The philosophies of this world were both confirmed and radically reshaped in Jesus. It was the unconceivable event of Christmas, of the incarnation of God, that provided the thing that they could not have conceived and that completed their imperfect conceptions of the universe. Philosophy was a search, and it found what it never expected in Christ, something so universal and catholic that it contained all truth.

Philosophy was a search, and it found what it never expected in Christ, something so universal and catholic that it contained all truth.

Herod — The Enemy

Finally, there is Herod who slaughtered the infants of Bethlehem. He represents the demon-worshippers, the child-sacrificers of Moloch, the dark side of humanity’s story. Christmas was the beginning of a “revolution against the prince of the world.” The world was invaded, not to be destroyed but to be purified. That little child in the cave, so weak, so small, carried the hope of the whole world on his shoulders. His birth was the declaration of war. While Christmas is “local enough for poetry and larger than any other philosophy, it is also a challenge and a fight.” The rulers of this world are warned.

The Hope of Second Christmas

I recommend you read Chesterton in his own glory. But I hope you have seen a glimpse of the glory of true Christmas — the tale that fulfils all tales, the fact that interprets all other facts, and the war cry that shakes the dark lord of this world from his throne.

If Jesus’ first coming was the centerpoint of human history, his second coming will be the conclusion — and the start of a whole other story. At that time, creation will be renewed beyond imagination, God will be revealed beyond reason, and the strongholds of Satan will be defeated beyond repair. In the brokenness of our world, that is a message of hope without parallel.

Endnotes

[1] All citations are from chapter 1, ‘The God in the Cave’, from part 2 of The Everlasting Man, ‘On the Man Called Christ’.

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