The German Jesuit priest Fr. Alfred Delp had just enough time to scribble a letter on December 22, 1944 before being handcuffed again. He was executed by the Nazis less than two months later.
Here’s an excerpt of what he wrote:
And now we’re going to be celebrating Christmas. And it’s going to be a beautiful Christmas, despite everything, or perhaps because of everything. With the stage setting gone these days, it’s real, without obstruction, and a person can stand and face ultimate reality. The lightning that has struck us has also burned away our romantic concepts. But that’s how it should always be. A Father of the Church calls Christmas the mystery of the great howl, because the creature is completely shaken by the manner in which God takes a stand with the human race. Since our utterly bourgeois respectability prevents us from being capable of this howl any more, God has for the time being once again taught us what a shaking—a shaking, shaken world—means! I think that from all of this we’re going to have a watchful and blessed time with the Child. The contradiction of everything we take for granted, the setting aside of all our important matters. Powerlessness on the tightrope is an education in understanding the Child. When I’ve understood it enough, then I can come down.
If a priest could have a beautiful Christmas in Germany in 1944 just before being executed, then so can we have a beautiful Christmas during a pandemic, in the midst of an illness, in the face of the political chaos of our own day.
The shaking can lead to disillusionment or to watchfulness, to wilful blindness or to rapt vigilance.
If this would be our last Christmas, could we see it as beautiful because of everything?