It is traditional at Christmas for columnists, preachers, politicians, and pig farmers to lay back, smile, and talk about all the good things we should be thankful for. Children sing, plastic cherubs circle overhead and we all remember the old hymn, “Angels we have heard on high, telling us to go out and buy.” The fire is warm, the toddy is hot and all is right in the world.
“Bah. Humbug!” as one of my favorite people used to say. A short piece by Rob Dreher in the “Review” section of the December 12-13 Wall Street Journal puts this year’s Christmas crap in perspective. “We have gotten used to a world that past generations would have called the Apocalypse, said Solzhenitsyn,” Dreher wrote.
I think those past generations had it right. This year’s Christmas is Christ’s Mass celebrated amid the Apocalypse.
We tend to think of the Apocalypse as something sudden. When it happens, everybody will know it because it will be the biggest bang since the Big Bang. But what if that isn’t how it works?
We read repeatedly in Scripture passages that suggest Jesus and the authors of the Gospels had a sense of time different from ours. When Christ says “This generation shall not pass away . . .” He uses “generation” differently from the way we use it. We sing, “A thousand ages in thy sight are like an evening gone. . .” The Jews of Jesus’s time expected the Messiah to lead a victorious war against the Romans and restore the kingdom of Israel. Rome did not fall until AD 476, or AD 1453 depending on how you define Rome. Israel was not re-established until 1915 years after Christ’s death and resurrection.
If we think of the Apocalypse playing out in Biblical time, it has been welling up all around us without our noticing. The latest start date I would give would be 1914, when the Christian West put a gun to its head and blew its brains out. A better date would be 1789, the year of the French Revolution. The Whig interpretation of history welcomes that fell event as a triumph of democracy over absolute monarchy (that wasn’t absolute; good King Louis XVI called the Estates General because he could not raise taxes without their approval). They pass over the vicious assault the Jacobins launched on Christianity and those who profess it; the cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris was spiritually burned then, not last year, when the Revolutionaries turned it into the “Temple of Reason.” The blood of Christian martyrs flowed liberally from the guillotine.
The three great Christian, conservative monarchies of Russia, Prussia, and Austria put the Jacobin furies back in the bottle for the century, but World War I swept them all from the board. The whole political/cultural spectrum shifted sharply to the Left. And the Apocalypse welled up and submerged everything good, everything beautiful, everything holy.
Step back from your day-to-day concerns and look around you. Your fellow voyagers on this planet fall into every ditch, their eyes glued to an electronic screen on which images dance out every sin. The war on God intensifies as cultural Marxists, aka “the Progressives,” demand He be first silenced, then banned. Nietzsche’s “Transvaluation of all values” turns every sin into a virtue and every virtue into a sin. President-elect Biden chooses as his Secretary for Health and Human Services a man whose personal objective seems to be aborting every baby conceived in America. That’s quite a definition of “health” and “human services”–an Apocalyptic definition, in fact. A growing number of prominent cultural Marxists are calling for anyone who opposes them to be sent to “Re-Education Camps”. I wonder what gas they will use this time?
The grim fact is, there is little to be joyful about this Christmas. Except–this is how Christians have always expected history to unroll. We lose, we lose, and we lose, until almost no one and nothing is left. And then, suddenly, we win.
Come, Lord Jesus. Merry Christmas.