Star of wonder, star of night, star with royal beauty bright

Posted: Dec 22, 2004 12:00 AM

For lo, the days are hastening on . . .

And so they are.

But in the mad dash toward Christmas let us not forget the star, or what Christmas is supposed to be all about: the realm beyond evil and the merely material.

Some - mostly Marxists and lunatic libertarians - tell us the material world is all there is, that economics explains everything, that even Christmas comes at a cost.

Yet as G.K. Chesterton noted in his "Everlasting Man":

The materialist theory of history, that all politics and ethics are the expression of economics, is a very simple fallacy (that confuses) the necessary conditions of life with the normal preoccupations of life.

Ours is not the first generation to battle materialism, particularly in annual Christmastime skirmishes. Nor is ours the first generation to confront evil. The late, great Malcolm Muggeridge quantified the idiot horror of his solitary lifetime:

I have heard a crazed Austrian announce to the world the establishment of a German Reich that would last for a thousand years, an Italian clown restart the calendar to begin with his own assumption of power, a murderous Georgian brigand in the Kremlin acclaimed by the intellectual elite of the Western world as wiser than Solomon, more enlightened than Asoka, more humane than Marcus Aurelius. I have seen America wealthier and, in terms of weaponry, more powerful than all the rest of the world put together, so that Americans, had they so wished, could have outdone an Alexander or a Julius Caesar in the range and scale of their conquests.

That is what Muggeridge saw, in addition to witnessing many of his own British brethren actually believing, as they were assured by a favorite hymn, that a God who made them mighty in the name of a presumed virtue "would make them mightier yet."

More recently we have had the likes of Yasser, Saddam, Osama, and Zarqawi. So the evil we confront today is the same old same old, albeit in updated form. But only now does a chorus rise to admonish against judgmentalism, to justify any lifestyle as equaling any other, to intone the relativity of right as weighed against wrong, to defend the high purpose of any action causing one to feel good.

Then along comes Christmas to remind contemporary America about permanent things - about the genuine and eternal in an hour of the ersatz and evanescent.

Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing....

We come, or go, home - even though as many of us age with the ever circling years, our children no longer come to us but we go to them. Home transforms into the place where they are, a refuge from evil and the material.

And are we not guided there by a metaphorical star - a star of wonder, star of night, star with royal beauty bright? That star leads back to the permanent, the good, the pure, the supposition of how things are in a perfect world and how they ought to be in ours: giving, constancy, warmth, love. That is what we come home to, or should; that is the essence of Christmas we want the young to carry into their adulthood.

Is it not?

The year brings - what? Haste. Anxiety. Weariness. Grief. We drift from our moorings. We know worry, indecision, emptiness, fatigue, distress. And then we reach the year's most cherished evening, often a midnight clear. In many somewheres, parents read breathless children "A Christmas Carol" or "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" or "St. Luke" - about three men following not today's familiar glitter and grab, but a star.

A hush falls. In a deep and dreamless sleep - on a silent night, a holy night - the silent stars go by. And then - born this happy morning, yea, Lord, we greet thee - the promise of eternity in another child, this one embodying precisely the purity for which all children yearn, as well as those older with wearied hearts.

It's magical, miraculous stuff. Even now, as then, it motivates a world.