I love Christmas. Turkey sandwiches, catching up with friends and family, and of course the Queen. But there’s also something about this season that makes most of us at least stop for a second. As John Betjeman puts it in his poem Christmas:
This most tremendous tale of all,
Seen in a stained-glass window’s hue,
A Baby in an ox’s stall ?
The Maker of the stars and sea
Become a Child on earth for me?
Undoubtedly there’s a magic about Christmas. Yet as we put up the tree and gorge ourselves on festive food and Christmas TV, we’re often simultaneously aware of the emptiness and hopelessness of this world we live in.
It might be that this season forces us to recall a personal tragedy that has marked our path this year. Maybe we feel a sense of despair at what’s on our news screens. Maybe all the gathering with friends and family, the spending and spending, just leaves us very aware of our own inadequacies and brokenness.
And so we’re occasionally left wondering, maybe hoping, that this tale of the baby, shepherds and kings might just be true. It could be a moment’s reflection brought about by the striking words of a familiar carol, or perhaps it’s a sense of wonder as we watch loved ones act out that ‘tremendous tale’ in their nativity play.
Yet Betjeman’s question has got to be right: ‘And is it true?’ As he so wonderfully puts it:
For if it is, no loving fingers tying strings
Around those tissued fripperies,
The sweet and silly Christmas things,
Bath salts and inexpensive scent
And hideous tie so kindly meant,
No love that in a family dwells,
No carolling in frosty air,
Nor all the steeple-shaking bells
Can with this single Truth compare…’Continue reading