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Jerry Earl Johnston: Little things buoy spirit of Christmas

Published: Saturday, Dec. 17 2011 5:00 a.m. MST

Marley's Ghost confonts Ebenezer Scrooge in the 1938 classic "A Christmas Carol."

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The poet William Blake could "see eternity in a grain of sand."

Not me.

My eyes aren't that sharp.

Nevertheless, I do often see profound and — yes — eternal moments in little snippets of Christmas, tidbits such as a few words from a carol or a fresh line in a greeting card.

In fact, I'm always on the lookout for such things.

Oh, I enjoy the grandeur of the season — the great productions in halls filled with thousands.

But I'm just as moved by the minimal — by the little scene in "A Christmas Carol," for example, where Scrooge blames the appearance of Marley's ghost on a bout of indigestion:

You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato. There's more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are!

Does writing get more delightful than that?

And I like little phrases in the carols.

"A humble bed wherin was laid the wondrous little stranger," runs a phrase in "With Wondering Awe."

The words never fail to charm me, no matter how often I sing them.

And I enjoy the third verse of the 18th century carol "While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks," a verse filled with all those words no one uses anymore:

Thus spake the seraph, and forthwith, appeared a shining throng.

In "Once in Royal David's City," Cecil Frances Alexander sets the words "Royal David's City" next to the words "cattle shed," a stark and telling contrast between the world and the humble birth of Jesus.

In the end, it was St. Therese of Lisieux who said she wasn't big enough to take the great road to heaven, she had to get there by her "little way," by doing small and almost unnoticed things.

And that is how I often get to the Christmas spirit — by following the "little way."

And by looking at a word here and a word there, I've found over the years I can tap into the meaning of the season just as quickly as I can traveling down the king's highway through the great gates of the Royal City.

When the song says, "Have Yourself a Merry LITTLE Christmas," I do.

Here's hoping you have one as well.

EMAIL: jerjohn@desnews.com

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