By Lana Turnbull (with the help of the late Rev. Peter Marshall)
With each passing day we get closer and closer to the holidays. Christmas decorations are already in the stores, there are enough catalogues in the mail to choke a billy goat, and we are just past Halloween. It feels like the much ado about the season is drowning out the real reason we celebrate. It reminds me of the sentiment expressed in a sermon by Peter Marshall that was published in 1952 in a little book called Let’s Keep Christmas. My paternal grandmother had a copy and passed it on to me.
I can’t pretend to express his message as eloquently as Peter Marshall did. It was simple yet profound, discarding the superfluous and keeping only the abiding truth – the reason for the season. “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:11
This, Marshall noted, “is still the heart of Christmas. It can be nothing else.”
Let’s Keep Christmas is now out of print, but never has our world needed its message more. In memory of my grandmother and with great gratitude to Peter Marshall, I want to share a short excerpt as my Christmas gift to you, our readers. I hope it will touch your hearts as it has mine.
“…In a world that seems not only to be changing, but even to be dissolving, there are some tens of millions of us who want Christmas to be the same…
With the same old greeting “Merry Christmas” and no other.
We long for the abiding love among men of good will which the season brings…believing in this ancient miracle of Christmas with its softening, sweetening influence to tug at our heart strings once again.
We want to hold on to the old customs and traditions because they strengthen our family ties, bind us to our friends, make us one with all mankind for whom the Child was born, and bring us back again to the God who gave his only begotten Son, that ‘whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.’
So we will not ‘spend’ Christmas…nor ‘observe’ Christmas
We will ‘keep’ Christmas – keep it as it is…in all the loveliness of its ancient traditions.
May we keep it in our hearts, that we may be kept in its hope.”
Peter Marshall, a Scottish born minister who came to the United States as a boy, became pastor of the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington, DC, in 1937, and was appointed twice as Chaplain of the U.S. Senate, serving from January 1947 until his sudden death in 1949.
Let’s Keep Christmas, a sermon by Peter Marshall, with an introduction by Catherine Marshall, was first published by McGRAW-HILL BOOK COMPANY, INC. in 1952.