The ringing of Christmas chimes ushers in another joyful season, during which reciprocal love finds its most copious overflow. Every living principle has a rhythmical movement, for the law of action and reaction is universal. As we slowly wind up the spiral of human ascent it is, therefore, normal to find recurring pulsations of unusual strength. Like the floods of spring time, these accentuated hours represent the great periodic rise of human interest and affection, the mingled currents of which refresh and enrich human life and experience. There are brought to the front those diviner faculties in man, which in the ordinary stress of daily routine are latent, or at least comparatively inactive. The exuberant spirit of such a season is a temporary object lesson of a coming steady and continual state of consciousness toward which, through moral and spiritual evolution, the world is tending.
Outside of and beyond the inspired historic associations connected with this anniversary, it is especially profitable to observe it on account of the exercise it gives to a soul-force of the highest and divinest quality. The principle which dwells back of the innumerable Christmas activities, many of which may seem trivial and unworthy, is that which alone will finally assure the salvation of the world.
This dynamic force, with the exercise of a wholesome optimism will logically help forward a coming age, when selfishness, wrong and materialism will have become outgrown, because of the transformation of the spirit which is back of them. As is the average individual, so is the mass, and all institutions are secondary and resultant. To turn the hearts of a people, will in due season mold legislation, government and ethical and even political standards into complete correspondence. To hold the best ideals for men, and see their best side, is the most efficient means to bring these into actualized manifestation. Here at the opening of the twentieth century, amid the intensest moral questioning and spiritual hunger the world has ever known, there is an unbounded field for every well directed effort for character upliftment. Aggression, animalism and the settlement of international differences by brute force, cannot be overcome by pessimism, nor by descending to fight them upon their own plane, but only through the force of moral ideals.
The spirit of love must everywhere be mingled in the complex life of mankind, for it is the only conserving element. Its absence is uniformly disintegrative. Nothing less than its sweetening potency will transform the negative and undeveloped powers of unspiritualized man. Without a liberal seasoning of this divine principle in society, the lower elements which evolution has brought over sink the soul into an arrested development. Its absence of manifestation makes barren all the relations and activities of human existence. The lack of its warm cohesive force furnishes the essence and motive of all wars, contentions and disorders. It is common to attribute all these vestiges of brutehood to the lack of intellectual development, but the repressed and frozen outflow of the basic element in man's constitution is the true reason for their prevalence.
As before noted every normal and beneficent faculty should have its vibrations of special activity, thereby lifting the general level and finding at least occasional fruition. "Times and seasons" are all needed as diverse parts of a larger unitary activity. In the broader view, reaction, or inactivity, is a period for the gathering of new potency for a stronger onrush than before. As just now the climax of darkness and lengthened nights is past, and the light and warmth of the sun's rays steadily wax, so in the larger year of man's unfolding, his higher forces and godlike powers are massing in unprecedented volume and their momentum of love will be irrestible.
The historic and local incarnation had a world-wide significance because it was an ideal and object lesson of developed humanity. It was the first ripened fruit of a great coming harvest. Man was filled with divinity, and nothing less than this in any age can normally round out his complex being. But if the historic manifestation were entirely unique and unapproachable, or were an experience in matter of any quality of soul extra-human, it would have little significance for man. Being infinitely beyond his reach, it could neither be an ideal nor an inspiration. But how natural and compelling as a supreme specimen of moral and spiritual attainment! How thoroughly practical and important as a goal for which to strive! It exhibits man in full stature, permeated and controlled by love. If" God is Love," Love must be the substantial principle of the universal economy. It means fullness of life. It is the rich exuberance of the deific overflow. Its growing subjective dominance in man, is the prophecy of a general incarnation.
The Christmas spirit which finds concrete expression in giving and loving, is a fore-gleam of a universal state of consciousness. In this brief hint is wrapped up the promise and potency of an assured coming condition. It is not only a religious, but a scientific necessity, that from the law of its nature Divinity seeks expressive instruments. Jesus recognized the intrinsic oneness, but through the ages such an inspiration or supreme consciousness has been veiled and mystical. But under the searchlight of recent thought, which may be defined as idealism made practical, there is a veritable renaissance.
From his very constitution, man must be restless until he finds God. But a search through intellectual logic is certain to be unsuccessful, and may bear fruit in agnosticism. Man can know God only through the development of the divine sample—love—in his own soul. This principle is theologically set forth in the Gospel according to Saint John.
The restless longing which men inherently feel to bring their souls into contact with the Great Reality is generally uninterpreted, even to their own consciousness. Something is lacking; they know not what. Each, according to his individual bias, allies himself with that church, institution, creed, or theology wherein to him there seems to be most of the Divine. With "lo here," or " lo there " sounding in his ears, he turns to all these objective things instead of looking directly within himself. The only glimpse of spiritual verity must be found in the divine image within. The fullness of love is latent in his own soul, but as he is all unaware of it his restlessness continues. It is yet to be unfolded through recognition and exercise.
The rising tide of the larger Christmas is the brightening dawn of the higher selfhood; the uncovering of the likeness of God. The education of the love faculty is the way leading to that plane of consciousness which constitutes the "Father's House." The smaller objective and formal Christmas is not enough. Above the music of visible chimes, the spirit of the sweet hymn of the old German poet comes floating in:
"Though Christ a thousand times in Bethlehem be born, If he's not born in thee thy soul is all forlorn."
While beautiful glimpses of the loftier aspects of love, in varying degree, have caught the eye of poets and prophets, its general exercise in the concrete has been looked upon by the world as an ideal that was very far distant. It was something for saints in the clouds, but not for mortals who stood with both feet upon the ground. It might form some part of the furniture of a heaven beyond the grave, but, except in sentimental attenuation or low quality, it had little mundane practicality. To enlarge and clarify our views, we must therefore study the cosmical side as well as that aspect which is distinctly religious. How much larger and nearer is this great entity of spiritual attraction than we have ever imagined! While as physical beings we live in an atmospheric sea which envelops the earth, in the reality of our being, which is spiritual, we are embosomed in the Omnipresent Love. What a real though unseen environment! Is it personal, does someone inquire? It is both personal and more than personal, as we choose to view it. It is not easy to divest that term of all concepts of limitation and locality. "In him we live, and move, and have our being."
Cosmical love is a larger and thoroughly normal and scientific idea of what is theologically denominated the "Holy Spirit." Philosophically, it must have as its logical basis a recognized beneficence of natural law. The inherent friendliness of the universal order has not yet come into general recognition, but it is clear to the more highly developed insight of an important minority. Nature, when spiritually interpreted, is friendly and only friendly. The theological "Holy Spirit" is spoken of as being "sent" or "poured out." How can it be sent when it is always here? If God is Omnipresent Love and Life, where can he be absent? What is the meaning of omnipresence? It is obvious that the sending and receiving of that which is always present can be only a seeming. But while we are living in and permeated with the divine atmosphere of love and life, to us it is absent if our consciousness be closed.
Nature is seemingly adverse only when we trample upon her methods, and even then her penalties, though often apparently severe are educational, and when rightly understood benignant. What a mighty Friend when we co-operate with her! Blinded by our crass materialism and lack of spiritual discernment, we are deaf to her harmonious voices and unwittingly believe that she is unmoral if not immoral. Let us, therefore, enlarge the theological idea of a limited and capricious " Holy Spirit," sent only at rare intervals by a distant and extra-cosmic Deity, until it becomes identical with that Omnipresent Reality which fills the universe with unseen harmony. What are those all-inclusive attractions which men have called the blind properties of matter, naming them for convenience gravitation and cohesion? May they not be a lower plane of manifestation of the magnetism of love? The sun sends out his wooing rays and every flower and living thing reflect his warm gladness, lifting their heads and springing forth in joyful responsiveness. Even the stars of heaven flash out their beatific sparkle to each other, and every atom of the universe is held in the raptured embrace of a universal enchantment.
Wherever a sense of indwelling love is graphic and genuine, there, and only there, is the real Christmas. When this state of consciousness becomes collective the morning of a veritable holy day will have dawned.
We are accustomed to think of the Sermon on the Mount and the golden rule as moral ideals; but they are far more. They are scientific. They exactly fit the constitution of man upon all its planes. The intelligent and perfect adjustment of means to ends, in any department, psychical and spiritual, as well as material, properly belongs to the domain of exact science. The scope of relativity and of demonstrable continuity can no longer be restricted. The normality and sanity of nations, as well as individuals, is graded by the quantity of the love element which has been incorporated within them.
The idea of a general incarnation in no sense renders the historic ideal less impressive or beautiful, while it potentially lifts all mankind toward the same level. The Prince of Peace is yet to set up a nativity in the common heart and life of the human family.