Featuring Six Original Poems:

(by Dave Armstrong / hyper-linked):

The Megabyte Before Christmas (1996)
The Greatest Christmas Gift (1997)
Little Did They Know (1999)
'Twas the Month After Election (2000)
Love's Pure Light, Burning Bright (2001)
Through the Eyes of a Child (2003)

And a Scouring of Skeptical Unbelief:

Silent Night (a "progressive" theological and agnostic re-interpretation and critical commentary) (2004)

Merry Old Santa Claus, engraving by German-born American illustrator and political caricaturist Thomas Nast (1840-1902), who drew his inspiration from the portrayal of Santa in Clement Moore's poem. His drawings are generally considered the genesis of the modern image of Santa Claus in America. Published in Harper's Weekly, January 1, 1881.

Through the Eyes of a Child

Through the eyes of a child, Christmas splendor is lustrous, bright;
World aglow, enchanted, Spirit's luminous presence hovers near.
The wonder, beauty, hope of the season, glorious holy silent night;
Young innocent hearts leading, older, "wiser" souls see and hear.

Through the eyes of a child, joys of Christmastime are ever-new;
God's love, care resoundingly manifest to the jaded, grown-up type.
Life is marvelous and great, in precious sight of a sweet girl of two;
Advent and Yuletide so much more than dollars and commercial hype.

Through the eyes of a child, life, people gain blessed new meaning;
Family, longing, sharing, are guided, ordained from our Father on high.
Jesus' graces pondered while decorating, game-playing, or cleaning;
In three boys' laughing frolic, or "princess"' adorable pout and cry.

Through the eyes of a child, fathers, mothers are two or seven again;
Ten or twelve: listening for sleigh bells, savoring pine needles' smell.
Wide-eyed, merry boys and girls can't wait for Christmas's "till then";
While grateful parents yearn for sights, sounds, peace too deep to tell.

Through the eyes of a child, "big people" discover what living is about;
Who is really learning, and being blessed more? Is it us or is it them?
As Christmas draws near, loved ones gather, gifts opened with shouts;
We look through eyes of our children and the God-Child in Bethlehem.

December 12, 2003


{all due credit, of course, to Clement Clarke Moore (1779-1863) - a seminary professor of Hebrew and Greek - for his 1822 classic, A Visit from St. Nicholas}

Largely composed (except for the first four lines and revisions later in the afternoon) during the wee hours of 16 December 1996, when the inspirational juices flow best.

The Virgin and Child With Two Saints (1490; oil on panel), by Giovanni Bellini (c.1430-1516) of Venice

Old-Fashioned and Traditional Christmas Links:

General Christmas Websites

Santa Claus / St. Nicholas

Christmas Carols and Music

Customs and Traditions

Old-Fashioned / Quaint / Nostalgic / Sentimental Christmas Stuff

Drama and Movies

Christian Meaning

Advent Season

G.K. Chesterton on Christmas

On Christmas and its Modern Detractors

If ever a faith is firmly grounded again, it will be at least interesting to notice those few things that have bridged the gulf, that stood firm when faith was lost, and were still standing when it was found again. Of these really interesting things one, in all probability, will be the English celebration of Christmas. Father Christmas was with us when the fairies departed; and please God he will still be with us when the gods return. Of course, it is covered up, like every other living thing, with a sort of moss of convention and the unmeaning use of words . . . There is nothing really wrong with the whole modern world except that it does not fit in with Christmas. The modern world will have to fit in with Christmas or die . . . All Christmas feasts, all Christmas freaks, are founded on human equality: at least, upon what is now called equality of opportunity . . . The real basis of life is not scientific; the strongest basis of life is sentimental. People are not economically obliged to live. Anybody can die for nothing. People romantically desire to live - especially at Christmas.

{"The Wrong Books at Christmas," The Illustrated London News, 9 January 1909}

Dickens' A Christmas Carol

The beauty and the real blessing of the story do not lie in the mechanical plot of it, the repentance of Scrooge, probable or improbable; they lie in the great furnace of real happiness that glows through Scrooge and everything around him; that great furnace, the heart of Dickens. Whether the Christmas visions would or would not convert Scrooge, they convert us.

{Charles Dickens: Last of the Great Men, NY: Press of the Readers Club, 1942 (orig. 1906), 123}

Christmas Comfort

Comfort, especially this vision of Christmas comfort, is the reverse of a gross or material thing. It is far more poetical, properly speaking, than the Garden of Epicurus. It is far more artistic than the Palace of Art. It is more artistic because it is based upon a contrast, a contrast between the fire and wine within the house and the winter and roaring rains without. It is far more poetical, because there is in it a note of defense, almost of war; a note of being besieged by the snow and hail; of making merry in the belly of a fort.

{Charles Dickens: Last of the Great Men, NY: Press of the Readers Club, 1942 (orig. 1906), 118-119}

The First Christmas

A mass of legend and literature, which increases and will never end, has repeated and rung the changes on that single paradox; that the hands that had made the sun and stars were too small to reach the huge heads of the cattle. Upon this paradox, we might almost say upon this jest, all the literature of our faith is founded . . . When that contrast between the cosmic creation and the little local infancy has been repeated, reiterated, underlined, emphasised, exulted in, sung, shouted, roared, not to say howled, in a hundred thousand hymns, carols, rhymes, rituals, pictures, poems, and popular sermons, it may be suggested that we hardly need a higher critic to draw our attention to something a little odd about it; especially one of the sort that seems to take a long time to see a joke, even his own joke . . .

Every Catholic child has learned from pictures, and even every Protestant child from stories, this incredible combination of contrasted ideas as one of the very first impressions on his mind. It is not merely a theological difference. It is a psychological difference which can outlast any theologies. It really is, as that sort of scientist loves to say about anything, incurable. Any agnostic or atheist whose childhood has known a real Christmas has ever afterwards, whether he likes it or not, an association in his mind between two ideas that most of mankind must regard as remote from each other; the idea of a baby and the idea of unknown strength that sustains the stars. His instincts and imagination can still connect them, when his reason can no longer see the need of the connection; for him there will always be some savour of religion about the mere picture of a mother and a baby; some hint of mercy and softening about the mere mention of the dreadful name of God.

But the two ideas are not naturally or necessarily combined. They would not be necessarily combined for an ancient Greek or a Chinaman, even for Aristotle or Confucius. It is no more inevitable to connect God with an infant than to connect gravitation with a kitten. It has been created in our minds by Christmas because we are Christians, because we are psychological Christians even when we are not theological ones. In other words, this combination of ideas has emphatically, in the much disputed phrase, altered human nature. There is really a difference between the man who knows it and the man who does not. It may not be a difference of moral worth, for the Moslem or the Jew might be worthier according to his lights; but it is a plain fact about the crossing of two particular lights, the conjunction of two stars in our particular horoscope. Omnipotence and impotence, or divinity and infancy, do definitely make a sort of epigram which a million repetitions cannot turn into a platitude. It is not unreasonable to call it unique. Bethlehem is emphatically a place where extremes meet.

{The Everlasting Man}

Amid Roars of Happy Christmas Laughter (GKC on Christmas) (James V. Schall, S.J.)
Chestertonian Elements in Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life (Dale Ahlquist)
Charles Dickens (G.K. Chesterton)
Appreciations and Criticisms of the Works of Charles Dickens (G.K. Chesterton)
Article on Charles Dickens in the 1929 edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica (G.K. Chesterton)
Chesterton on Caricature and Dickens (Joseph Schwartz)

 Charles Dickens on Christmas

Who can be insensible to the outpourings of good feeling, and the honest interchange of affectionate attachment, which abound at this season of the year? A Christmas family-party! We know nothing in nature more delightful! There seems a magic in the very name of Christmas. Petty jealousies and discords are forgotten; social feelings are awakened, in bosoms to which they have long been strangers; father and son, or brother and sister, who have met and passed with averted gaze, or a look of cold recognition, for months before, proffer and return the cordial embrace, and bury their past animosities in their present happiness. Kindly hearts that have yearned towards each other but have been withheld by false notions of pride and self-dignity, are again reunited, and all is kindness and benevolence!

{from Sketches by Boz, 1836}

Do not select the merriest of the [days] for your doleful recollections, but draw your chair nearer the blazing fire - fill the glass and send round the song - and if your room be smaller than it was a dozen years ago, or if your glass be filled with reeking punch, instead of sparkling wine, put a good face on the matter, and empty it off-hand, and fill another, and troll off the old ditty you used to sing, and thank God it's no worse . . .

{from Sketches by Boz, 1836}

At last the dinner was all done, the cloth was cleared, the hearth swept, and the fire made up.
The compound in the jug being tasted, and considered perfect, apples and oranges were put upon
the table, and a shovel-full of chestnuts on the fire. Then all the Cratchit family drew round the
hearth, in what Bob Cratchit called a circle, meaning half a one; and at Bob Cratchit's elbow stood the family display of glass. Two tumblers, and a custard-cup without a handle.

These held the hot stuff from the jug, however, as well as golden goblets would have done; and Bob served it out with beaming looks, while the chestnuts on the fire sputtered and cracked noisily. Then Bob proposed:

'A Merry Christmas to us all, my dears. God bless us!' Which all the family re-echoed.  'God bless us every one!' said Tiny Tim, the last of all.

{from A Christmas Carol, 1843}


¤ ¤¤¤ ¤ ¤ Little Did They Know ¤ ¤¤¤ ¤ ¤

There is something in the very season of the year that gives a charm to the festivity of Christmas. In the depth of winter, when Nature lies despoiled of her charms, wrapt in her shroud of sheeted snow, we turn for our gratifications to moral sources . . . It is indeed the season of regenerated feeling - the season for kindling not merely the fire of hospitality in the hall, but the genial flame of charity in the heart. He who can turn churlishly away from contemplating the felicity of his fellow-beings and can sit down repining in loneliness, when all around is joyful, wants the genial and social sympathies which constitute the charm of a merry Christmas.

{from The Sketch-Book, 1820, by Washington Irving}

'Twas the Month After Election
- A Satirical Poem -

[be forewarned: not for the faint of heart of Democratic persuasion; remember, this is humor!]

An admittedly highly partisan take-off on the lunacy of the 2000 presidential election, with a doubly Christmassy twist . . .

'Twas the month after election, when all through Florida land,
Not a single vote was certain, from pencil, stylus, or hand.
The chads were all hung on the ballots by a hair,
In hopes that Democratic canvassing boards soon would be there.
Palm Beach ladies wrestled with senility, all smug in their views,
With visions of conspiracy; "Buchanan we didn't choose!"
Some counties had butterfly ballots, or pregnant dimples "clear,"
And liberals wracked their brains for a long bleeding-heart's smear.

When on the White House lawn there arose such a stink,
They sprang from voting booths to loathe conservative rat finks.
Away to the media crusading Algore flew like a flash,
And tore open honesty and truth, evil Republicans to bash.
The moon and the sky, like Chicken Little, were caving in,
Giving a lustre of "plausibility" to cynical Democrat spin.

When what to our disbelieving eyes should appear,
But a grown-up whining crybaby, as certification drew near.
With a little old Supreme Court, honorable, liberal, and slick,
To legislate on a whim: this kangaroo court so quick.
More rapid than eagles, Algore's counselors came,
And he whistled through fake smiles and called them by name:

Now Daschle! now Daley! now St. Christopher! now silly Boies!
On, Lieberman! on, Jennings; I'd Rather have Brokaw media ploys!
To the brink of shamelessness! To the very pinnacle of folly!
Now Daschle and Gephardt: dash away objectivity & fairness, by golly!

As the Constitution before the wild propaganda campaign died,
Faced with the obstacle of rule of law, they circumvented and lied.
So to thrice-counted punch cards salivating canvassers they flew,
With bags full of dirty tricks and chads; arrogant and self-righteous too.

And then, in a twinkling, Algore heard in his head,
The prying and gnawing of conscience's dread.
While practicing Reaganisms, in the mirror saw he with squinting eyes,
Three luminous Ghosts of Close Elections Past, in but slight disguise.
They were covered in greasy ballots and dollars, from head to foot,
And their reputations were all tarnished with compromise and soot.
Like a bundle of risky schemes, Algore - dazed - fell flat on his back.
He looked like the Gipper, but dumber, less wrinkly; as if high on crack.

Richard Nixon's eyes: how they twinkled! his jowls: how merry!
His fingers made the "victory" sign (McGovern he buried).
His droll little mouth said: "Let me make this perfectly clear.
I put country above ambition, in '60 and '74: what a year!"

Old Rutherford Hayes' beard was long and white as fleece.
A stump speech from long ago he held tight in his teeth.
The smoke-filled rooms encircled his head like a scarf:
"When they called me 'Your Fraudulency,' it made me wanna barf!"

Then handsome JFK told Algore: "I won because of debates on telly,
But old man Daley's Chicago shenanigans made victory kinda smelly.
Even Tricky Dick gracefully, manfully conceded, like a jolly old elf."
With a wink he warned: "So should you, in spite of your devious self."

Algore suddenly arose, rubbing his eyes and twisting his head,
Soon giving hostage America to know it had nothing to dread.
He spoke no more lies and half-truths, but went straight to work,
Selling all his big oil stock(ings); no longer the big jerk.
And pointing his finger at himself instead of patient W. Bush,
He resumed his former pro-life views, and racial strife wouldn't push.
He sprang to the congress; to fellow Democrats giving a call,
And urged upon them statesmanship; ugly bickering to stall.

And we heard him exclaim, as he conceded by the book,

Life means far more than stealing elections by hook or crook.
Jesus said: "the first shall be last, and the last shall be first."
So for the good of the country, my ruthless ambition I will burst.
I've been a chameleon, exaggerated, and torn groups apart;
Now it's time to stop demagoguing; I'll examine my own heart.

And all marvelled at Algore's classy cry, ere he finally faded out of TV sight:

Happy Christmas to all, and to Dubya, you put up a good fight!

Written on 9 December 2000, before the election was decided.

Love's Pure Light, Burning Bright


Love's pure Light, burning Bright, [Ps 89:15]
Crowning Creation, beginning of Story. [Gen 1:3]
Banishing darkness, cold, and Night, [Gen 1:4]
Skies and mountains bespeak His Glory. [Rom 1:20]


Love's pure Light, what a sight! [1 Tim 6:16]
Shekinah cloud hovering high. [Ex 13:21]
Above the Temple, Jerusalem's height, [1 Kings 8:10-11]
God's presence, comforting, ever nigh. [Jer 31:33-34]


Love's pure Light, cast away fright, [Lk 2:8-10]
God/Child trembling in the hay-filled cave. [Lk 2:11-14]
From Bethlehem's star, receives heavenly Light, [Mt 2:9-11]
Fallen souls, weak bodies, came He to Save. [Jn 3:16-18]


Love's pure Light, shows His might, [Jn 3:19-21]
Transfiguration's wonders, disciples see. [Lk 9:29,32]
Elijah, Moses, Peter, John in twilight, [Lk 9:28,30-31,33-34]
Glimpse Afterlife's marvels to be. [Phil 3:20-21]


Love's pure Light, burning Bright, [Jn 8:12]
Conquering death, and Satan's Ploy. [Rom 6:3-14]
Jesus Rising, vanquish'd man's Plight, [Acts 1:3]
Guard soldiers dazed, scattered like toys. [Mt 28:1-4]


Love's pure Light, what a sight!  [Jn 1:4-5,9]
Disciples, Mary pray in the Upper Room. [Acts 1:12-14]
For each one a Fiery Spirit tonight, [Acts 2:1-4]
Causing to flee doubt, fear, and gloom. [Jn 14:27-29]


Love's pure Light, cast away fright, [Mt 5:14-16]
Holy Spirit each believer to Dwell, [Jn 14:15-26]
Power, Grace, Peace for all Contrite, [Phil 4:13]
Exceeds, defeats temptations from Hell. [James 4:7]


Love's pure Light, shows His might, [Rev 22:5]
Magnificent Almighty, Reigns on His Throne. [Rev 4:2-6]
Redeemed multitude Worships, Delights, [Rev 7:13-17]
Heaven's Ecstatic Joy forevermore Shone. [Rev 21:1-27]

Written on 12 December 2001

May you and yours enjoy a truly blessed Christmas and a new year full of joy, peace, spiritual contentment and "right priorities."

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Poems Copyright 1996, 1997, 1999, 2000, 2001, and 2003 by Dave Armstrong. All rights reserved.

Thorough URL Revision: 12 December 2003. Updated: 16 December 2004.