Gilbert Keith Chesterton was surely among the brightestminds of the twentieth century—a prolific journalist, best-selling novelist,insightful poet, popular debater, astute literary critic, grassroots reformer,and profound humorist. Recognizedby friend and foe alike as one of the most perspicacious, epigrammatic, andjocose prose stylists in the entire literary canon, he is today the most quotedwriter in the English language besides William Shakespeare.
His remarkable output of books—more than a hundred publishedin his lifetime and half again that many afterward—covered an astonishing arrayof subjects from economics, art, history, biography, and social criticism topoetry, detective stories, philosophy, travel, and religion. His most amazing feat was not merelyhis vast output or wide range but the consistency and clarity of his thought,his uncanny ability to tie everything together. In the heart of nearly every paragraph he wrote was ajaw-dropping aphorism or a mind-boggling paradox that left readers shakingtheir heads in bemusement and wonder.
But Chesterton was not only a prodigious creator of characters;he was also a prodigious character in his own right. At over six feet and three hundred pounds his romanticallyrumpled appearance—often enhanced with the flourish of a cape and aswordstick—made him appear as nearly enigmatic, anachronistic, and convivial ashe actually was. Perhaps that wasa part of the reason why he was one of the most beloved men of his time—evenhis ideological opponents regarded him with great affection. His humility, his wonder at existence,his graciousness and his sheer sense of joy set him apart not only from most ofthe artists and celebrities during the first half of the twentieth century, butfrom most anyone and everyone.
He was amazingly prescient—predicting such things as themindless faddism of pop culture, the rampant materialism permeating society,the moral relativism subsuming age-old ethical standards, disdain of religion,the unfettered censorship by the press (as opposed to censorship of the press),the grotesque uglification of the arts, and the rise of the twin evils ofmonolithic business and messianic government. It seems that his words ring truer today than when they werefirst written nearly a century ago.
But perhaps the most remarkable thing about Chesterton wasnot his prodigious literary output, his enormous popularity, or his culturalsagacity. Instead, it was hisenormous capacity to love—to love people, to love the world around him, and tolove life. His all-encompassinglove was especially evident at Christmastime.
Maisie Ward, Chesterton’s authoritative biographer andfriend asserted, “Some men, it may be, are best moved to reform by hate, butChesterton was best moved by love and nowhere does that love shine more clearlythan in all he wrote about Christmas.” Indeed, he wrote a great deal about Christmas throughout his life—and asa result his love shines abroad even now, nearly three-quarters of a centuryafter his death.
He wrote scintillating Christmas essays, poignant Christmasverse, and adventurous Christmas stories. He wrote Christmas reviews, editorials, satires, and expositions. He wrote of Christmas recipes andChristmas presents and Christmas sermons. They all bespeak the stalwart faith, the abiding hope, and theinfectious joy he drew from the celebration of Christ’s incarnation.