Though Christmas is the festival of light and is celebrated with many lights, it often seems to me that it is not much more than a shadow—the shadow of a Figure who has long since passed by.

It is true, of course, that even the cast shadow has in it a certain greatness. At any rate, it indicates the contours of a reality that even the unsentimental “man of today,” who prides himself upon his objectivity, somewhat shamefacedly calls love. At Christmas we are kind to one another, we emphasize the element of community, and enjoy ourselves. The antagonisms that keep thrusting themselves upon us are walled off for a few moments with air cushions, and for a short time the gentle law of kindness reigns.

The true greatness becomes evident when we consider what a miracle it is after all that these images of the shepherds, mother Mary seeking shelter, and the humble stable should be capable of transforming our whole point of view for even a few moments, that they should draw us out of the vicious circle of our daily routine and make us think of our suffering, forsaken, needy fellow men.

For a few moments we are troubled by the thought that anybody should be obliged to spend Christmas Eve without its lights on the lonely sea, that anybody should be walking the streets alone with nothing and nobody to call his own, not even a future. It is the greatness of this shadow that can arouse such sadness and concern.

But an irony, or better, a sadness that escapes into irony, appears when we measure the shadow by the original Figure who cast it.

For what is a love that no longer emanates from immediate contact with him who “is” love, but lives in us only as a kind of memory, a mere distant echo? Our everyday speech ...

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