Thankless Christmas

No one in his right mind will be reading a weblog, or antiblog, on Christmas morning. Therefore these remarks are addressed exclusively to my wrong-thinking readers.

I have observed through the years that the wrong-minded crave thanks and recognition; therefore I should like to extend my appreciation to you all. If you tell me who you are, I might write a facetious thank-you note; though if you have recently sent me money, I hesitate. This is because, as I have come to think (whether rightly of wrongly), sincere gratitude is not transactional. In a transaction, you pay.

Moreover, a right-minded person will cultivate anonymity, especially while performing any mitzvah or charitable act. But for the wrong-minded, there is pas de problème. For any of them may plead, in their own defence, that they are not actually in their right minds.

If it were a problem, Christ did not address it. From Nativity to Crucifixion, and thereafter, He does not appear to have thanked anyone. Perhaps an astute scholar or theologian will correct me. (Nominally, He thanks God in his farewell discourse; but think this through.) True, even Jesus is sometimes quoted on Hallmark thank-you cards; but in none of these is Our Saviour himself saying “thank you” to anyone — a formality which, incidentally, any right-thinking person would wave aside.

We can thank God, in our hearts, constantly, and even on our lips. But what has God to thank us for?

A friend mentions the question of salt. While it is not recorded in Scripture, at a dinner table, Jesus probably said, “Please pass the salt.” Then, “thank you,” when it was pushed forward. It is hard to imagine that Our Lord would not have been polite, and customary. Had He not been, it would more likely have been recorded in Scripture.

Now, gratitude is another matter, as surely even the wrong-thinking will agree. But this goes from the start beyond the formal, and is expressed not by the tongue but in the life. We are changed by gratitude, just as we are changed by ingratitude or bitterness (our own).

At the sight of the infant Jesus, however presented, we respond. We are changed by the experience of gratitude, for the better, though when we reject it, for the worse. For a moment out of time, we are in Bethlehem. It is the Bethlehem of Mary and Joseph; also the Bethlehem of Herod.

On a tiny scale, it is the same for any writer, or actor in life; or participant, finally, on one side or the other. He is “effecting change” in those who read, or open themselves to influence in any other way. Of course he may be smeared, as Jesus told us to expect; smeared and persecuted, for His sake. But we have no control over that, only over how we respond. The important things are those over which we have some control. (Here we find the distinction between master and slave.)

It is for this thankless reason that we go into battle — onward Christian soldiers! — cheerfully. For this good cheer is, in itself, the expression of our gratitude, when we are called to serve. Thanks are unnecessary, whether we should live or die. There is only remembrance of the Child, who by his very appearance declared that, henceforth, death hath no dominion.