CHRISTMAS DOES SOMETHING quite miraculous to most of us. We may go to bed the night before weary of crowds and rush and dozens of last-minute chores, and fed up with the whole business. And then we arise on the day itself to find ourselves transformed almost as remarkably as Scrooge was, and without any ghostly assistance.
If we have small children we find that we love them, even though they wakened us at dawn. The sense of family unity becomes something to be newly cherished. We greet our friends with uncritical affection. Our hearts go out to all our fellow men, and we wish them well.
We do not do these things because we are compelled to or because tradition says we ought to. We do them simply because the spirit of Christmas is upon us. Peace and good will, familiar words of the Christmas story, suddenly become positive and meaningful.
The good will recedes, the peace is disturbed, and we go back to the strivings and the differences of everyday life. But the spirit of Christmas does not disappear. It is a part of us, part of our heritage and of our national as well as individual behavior.
Sometimes it seems that we Americans forget, in our zeal for progress and improvement, that we are a decent, kindly people. We seem to forget how good a life most of us have, and why we have it.
It is right that we should try to improve that life and share its goodness more evenly. But in doing that we sometimes tend to emphasize our disagreements and to take our blessings and our virtues for granted.
The Christmas season is a good time to remember that we live in a nation that was founded on Christian ethics as well as on political justice. It was built upon the Christian belief in the worth and dignity of the individual.
That belief is absent this Christmas from many countries. In some, the brotherhood of man has been replaced by government edicts of suspicion, betrayal and class hatred. In others, conformity and obedience are demanded by a program whose goal seems to be a drab uniformity masquerading as social equality. And even in our own country there are people who would have us emulate the one system or the other.
We have not done so, and let us give thanks for it. Let us look about us and within us and count our very palpable blessings. Let us remember that, for all our shortcomings, we embody for the rest of the world the charity and generosity and good will that are the essence of the Christian and the Christmas spirit. Christmas is not an American institution or an American holiday. But we have patterned our best aspirations after its meaning until it has become not only one day in our year but, in a sense, our way of life.