(This editorial appeared on p. 10 of the December 25, 1930, issue of Christian Standard.)
The Festival of the Second Mile
Christmas . . . is a special glorification of unselfishness. Essentially the Christmas spirit is the spirit of doing, at least to one’s loved ones, the things that will make them happy. We study for a month or so the wishes of these friends; we endeavor to learn from their own actions and from the observations of those near them “what they want;” then we proceed to give them what they want. And we find an unwonted happiness in doing that.
The Christmas spirit is, therefore, the practice of the Golden Rule. All of us practice it with respect to those nearest us, and many of us rejoice to do it even with respect to strangers as we endeavor to bring Christmas cheer to poor and unfortunate ones, the fatherless and the widow. The genuine Christmas spirit rises above the idea of “What am I going to get?” and asks “What can I give?” The true Christmas spirit wipes out selfishness and finds exalted happiness in the effort to please. What is finer than the thrill that comes with the release of the bated breath when we have our answer to the question, “I wonder whether he will like it?”
Now we seem to have a very difficult time finding it out, but that Christmas spirit is precisely the Christian spirit. What we do at Christmas is exactly what Jesus teaches us to do the year round. It is the mystery of happiness that Jesus sought to unfold to the world in his Sermon on the Mount. To a world steeped in selfishness and increasingly unhappy in that condition, Jesus brings the remedy—to practice the Christmas attitude the year round, to live always from the standpoint of the other person’s well-being.
This is the philosophy of the second mile. It is the doctrine of giving the cloak also. It is the triumph of unselfishness. It is the study of the well-being of our fellows with the purpose to do our part to bring that well-being to fruition.
What a vital doctrine this is is made quite evident by the very fact that, when human nature is once possessed by it, there comes to be a relish in overcoming all unfavorable conditions. Christmas spirit thrives upon obstacles. Hard times, severe weather, unusual difficulties, challenge the real Christmas spirit. We who are accustomed to snow at that season come to desire a cold, white Christmas, as if we wanted a foil for the warmth of our spirits.
That is precisely what underlies the whole Christian morality. The Christian is not taught to desire ideal conditions, but to surmount unfavorable ones by the power of a renewed spirit, and especially to surmount such conditions as they appear in the hearts of those about him. He is to make it his aim to win even his mean-spirited brother and to make this conquest by the generosity of his own nature.
If, now, this Christmas spirit is the Christian spirit in essence, what possible excuse can there be for limiting it to a few weeks? Certainly we ought not to allow the season to go by without having the spirit, but, when it has gone, what possible excuse can there be for turning back to the beggarly elements of the world after having tasted of the joys of the Christian spirit and attitude? Why should one want to wallow in the mire of selfishness after having known the luxury of practicing the Golden Rule? There is but one answer to that question: The practice of the Golden Rule is not a matter of morality alone. It requires a dynamic of large proportions to make it work. It does not work itself. Men need to be captured and transformed by Jesus in order to practice it as the normal thing in their lives. The fact that all professed Christians have been captured by Jesus so that they are slaves to Him.
The new year will bring happiness if the spirit that makes Christmas merry is carried throughout the year—and that can be done only by surrender to the Christ.