“The times are so serious that even children should be made to understand that there are vital differences in people’s beliefs which lead to differences in behavior.
This little story, I hope, will appeal to children so they will read it and as they grow older, they may understand that the love, peace and gentleness of the Christ Child, leads to a way of life for which we must all strive.”
The words were written close to eighty years ago, in the midst of a world at war, by Eleanor Roosevelt in a brief and beautiful book she called, Christmas: A Story.
A little girl named Marta has lost her father, his life one of the millions claimed by WW ll. With the death of her father, the little girl and her mother have lost their joy…and their hope.
Then on Christmas eve, after hearing that St. Nicholas will not come that night (there is no extra money for Christmas,) Marta finds a candle left from the year before. The little girl asks permission of her mourning mother to place it in the window. “To light the way for the Christ Child,” she explains to her mother. Shaking her head sadly, Marta’s mother does not object.
“Marta took out the candle and carefully placed it in a copper candlestick which had always held a lighted candle on Christmas Eve. ”
Once the candle is in shining in the window, seven- year- old Marta wants to see how far the light would extend into the night. She dashes outside into the howling wind to see the light.
“Why are you out here, little girl?”
It is a very tall strange man standing beside her who asks the question. At Marta’s reply that she wants the Christ Child to see it so He can come into her house, the stranger admonishes her, “You must not believe in any such legend. There is no Christ child. This is a story told for the weak. It is ridiculous to believe that a little child could lead the people of the world, a foolish idea, claiming strength through love and sacrifice. You must grow up and acknowledge only one superior, he who dominates the world through fear and strength.”
Marta listens. After all, she is just seven and has been taught to respect her elders. But she has been talking to the Christ Child, all year, about her hopes and fears…and dreams of her father coming home.
“Somehow this man hurt that dream and it was worse than not having St. Nicholas come. It seemed to pull a curtain down over the whole world.”
the claim of the tall strange man, “You must not believe in any such legend…there is no Christ Child,” rings loudly to our twenty-first century ears. At times, the shouts of the godless seem to obscure hope and faith in the hearts of our children and even in you and me.
Until we ponder this Child of Miracles, consider the perverse fear of King Herod which caused the destruction of all Jewish males under the age of two…the reckless execution of innocents. A reckless perversity and destruction that is alive and well in these “advanced days of modernism.”
Eleanor Roosevelt’s gripping words, the times are so serious that even children recalls Christ’s own words -words spoken more as threat-about the preciousness of children:
If anyone causes one of these little ones–those who believe in me–to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.
I recall that it was this very passage that Claudia heard the one and only time she heard Jesus speak in my latest book. I did not know why it was this passage that appeared in my head as I wrote. I am beginning to see now.
This infant Child asks nothing from us and everything;
All at once.
He enters into our hearts and souls softly,
Quietly, almost without sound.
Once there, He offers peace, Life, wisdom
At no cost; just ourselves, whole, entire,
All at once.Fr Chuck Durante