Reprinted from the Dec. 24, 1933, edition of the Minneapolis Tribune.

 

The thoughts of Christmas are usually associated with those of youthful joys and of a day when a happier companionship than that of the other seasons of the year seeks expression in thought and deed. But in the evening hour before the dawn of Christmas Day who escapes those moments of solitude, not untinged by the pangs of “sweet melancholy”?

Such moments as these become more frequent and of deeper individual significance with advancing years. Though brief, they are no less a part of Christmas.

For anyone who has reached the stage in life where memory stirs easily, there are few days or seasons so provocative as Christmas. The day itself, its sacred as well as its secular significance, and the characteristics of its observance are an invitation to solitude and reflection. While few might choose to share the loneliness with which [English novelist] George Gissing has endowed [his semi-autobiographical character] Henry Ryecroft, everyone at some time or another must feel a kinship with him when he writes about his own Christmas:

“I would not now, if I might, be one of a joyus company; it is better to hear the long-silent voices, and to smile at happy things which I alone can remember. When I was scarce old enough to understand, I heard read by the fireside the Christmas stanzas of “In Memoriam.” Tonight I have taken down the volume, and the voice of so long ago has read to me once again — read as no other ever did, that voice which taught me to know poetry, the voice which never spoke to me but of good and noble things. Would I have those accents overborn by a living tongue, however welcome its sound at another time? Jealously I guard my Christmas solitude.”

Without the same jealous regard for a complete withdrawal from everyone and everything as that exhibited by Henry Ryecroft, much is to be drawn from a moment of solitude snatched out of the midst of scenes quite different. In those moments we may come closer to that peace and may come to understand more fully the meaning of that good will, which was pronounced both as a benediction and a challenge for the world on the first Christmas.

While we seek the joy that is in companionship, let us not forget the no less impelling joy to be found in those fleeting moments of solitude when only a “still, small voice” can be heard.