by Laurie Lee. His poem 'Christmas Landscape' is a classic. The YouTube video below adds some wonderfully evocative images and music to his magical words. Watch up to 2mins 35secs for the complete poem. First, though, a reading I've transcribed from a radio programme that was broadcast years ago. I've no idea where it comes from; I've never found it anywhere else. But it sums up most of what I feel about Christmas.
Christmas is two-faced of course. A great double-festival which the ages rolled into one. Part an act of bravado held in the teeth of winter, part the Christian celebration of birth. The old pagan part always seemed reasonable to me - a raising of spirits when things looked black... Eat, drink and be merry it seemed to say; the sun is extinguished and tomorrow we die. But the newer part - the festival of birth - seemed somehow to have got there by accident. Surely the spring, I thought, was the proper time for all this and not the bleak mid-winter - April or May when everything on earth was being born and life was bursting out all round us? I realise now that things are quite right as they are; that spring can look after itself; that the holy child was born in the pit of winter because it was the time of our greatest need, when the search had been longest, and all other signs of life obscured.
Others may have known all this for two-thousand years, but we each need our own personal revelation. And I am seeing it now for the first time in my life - and a long-ish life at that - because after twelve years of marriage, and a long winter of doubt, our first child has just been born.
Nothing is as remarkable as that which happens to oneself, commonplace as it may be to others. The truth of a love-story never quite makes sense until you yourself are in love. For Christmas is the family and the family is the child, and without the child the light of Christmas is blurred. And now that this light for me has suddenly been switched on I see all I'd forgotten, or never knew. For the birth of a child saves us all from extinction - is in fact almost a resurrection - still more precious perhaps, in my case, for having been so long and coldly awaited. So as a brand-new parent and in spite of all the years I've lived through, this is the first true Christmas of my life. Until now it was a feast without a blessing, a candle without a flame, and now I can see round its gaudy commercial drapes and through its stupors of over-eating, back to the original child whose feast this is, standing - smiling - at the beginning of things.
And everything now falls sparkling into place. The carols seem written for us alone, and my child stares at the tree, her eyes full of lights, and it's the first Christmas tree for us both. This moment can't last. My child will grow up and the lights of this tree will fade. But it doesn't matter. Christ is born every year and remains the point of our return: the chance to revisit this day, its star and its cradle, the miracle lying within in and to share together - mortal though we both may be - this moment of brief eternity.