Whither the concentration, usually so easy to summon when it comes to writing these weekly columns? Whither the inspiration, that comes unbidden throughout the week, offering up rare and delightful subjects with which to wrestle into the texts you’ve come to expect? Whither the sardonic wit, the well of woe, the Wheel Of Fortune waxing into the Sublime with fickle Dama Fortuna, appeased and even pleased, with her Infonews.ca scribe?
I’ll tell you, folks: it’s Christmas that has come upon me, and I’m in a dither.
Oh, I’m “ready,” as far as gift buying is concerned. Check. The stockings are hung over the hearth and the minuscule tree that we love is trimmed and bedecked with lights and baubles. Check. Tyere’s even a delightful aroma of strong coffee and melt-in-your-mouth sugar cookies emanating from the true heart of the home, our cramped but practical kitchen. Check.
So what gives? Why am I feeling agitated?
Many of us, as we reach a certain age, can begin to lose sight, I think, of the Mystery that adheres to the Advent and Christmas season.
It seems like many lifetimes ago, when we were kids. We recall participating in Christmas Eve church services, usually sitting in choir loft pews with the rest of the weasels, wayward whelps barely suppressing uproarious laughter as each, in turn, squeezed out seasonal farts of good cheer. We scanned the darkened congregation below, somewhat fearful that we might not get away with our antics if an eagle-eyed mum or a disapproving dad caught wind, as it were, of our daring doings.
But even back then, when the inevitable sacrilege was emboldening us to make merry, a hush would descend over one and all when the congregational singing would rise up to the heavens in the candle-lit sanctuary. “Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht,” (Silent night, Holy night) could calm even the most raucous crew and imbue the event with a solemnity that quickly obscured the harried days leading up to precisely THIS moment on Christmas Eve, the moment when you just knew that there was greater import to Christmas than the crazed gift-giving and receiving that we all anticipated with such ardour.
The Bible tells us many things that are true. And it understands how we develop over time:
“(O)ur knowledge is imperfect and our prophecy is imperfect; but when the time comes, the imperfect will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood. So faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians, 13: 9 - 13, RSV)
Now if there’s anyone out there that wants to crucify me for daring to bring Christ into Christmas, if there are among you folks who would pillory me for marveling at the moment’s Mystery, give your heads a shake; and realize that there is more to this world than crass consumption and an amassing of factoids to help us fare through the vagaries of Life’s well-worn ways.
Readers of literature know this, and the many artists they admire know this too: there is always the suggestion of a Beyond, a meaning of sorts, that transcends the text, the painting, or the wonderful musical arrangements that inspire in us a peculiar kind of devotion.
And the persistence of the Christmas mythology that we receive through thousands of years of re-telling is perhaps one of the very greatest stories of them all. The story of a child, born to humble folks in troubled times; a child who would go on to transform and ennoble the lives of countless adherents, believers and atheists alike, readers reaching out into the mists of myth to reclaim a sense of direction and purpose and meaning amidst a world gone wrong.
And so it is Christmas.
I wish for all of our readers that the season will bring you the joy of communing with your family and friends; the joy of celebrating the many blessings we experience each year. I hope too, that you can reclaim a sense of child-like excitement during these days of celebration -- there’s an unalloyed truth in feeling.
And with the arrival of Christmas, I wish you all much faith (in a better world for us to fashion in the future), hope (that we will have the courage and the tenacity to see it through), and above all love -- for it is love, in the end, that truly abides the longest and it is the thing that we cannot live without. Merry Christmas, indeed, one and all!