Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Advent, door thirteen...

After yesterday's snow-bound and rather excitable offering, I think we need something calming. Behind door number thirteen of this year's digital Advent calendar is Laurie Lee who - I think - gets Christmas absolutely spot on in this short broadcast from (I think) the 1950s.

Of course everyone knows that Christmas is 'for the kiddies'. But Laurie Lee sees something more profound in the old cliche. 'For the birth of a child saves us all from extinction; is, in fact, almost a resurrection...

Christmas is two-faced, of course: a great double festival which the ages have 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 somewhow to have got there by accident. Surely the Spring was the proper time for this, and not the bleak midwinter? April or May when everything on earth was being born and bursting out all round us.

I realise now that things are quite right as they are. Spring can look after itself and 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, hope almost abandoned and most of the signs of life obscured.

Others may have known all this for two thousand years, but we each need a personal revelation. And I'm seeing it now for the first time in my life - and a longish life at that - because after twelve years of marriage and a long winter of doubt, my first child has just been born.

Nothing is so remarkable as that which happens to oneself, commonplace though 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 been suddenly 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 at least, for having been so long and coldly awaited. 

So as a brand-new parent, and despite all the years I've lived through, this is the first true Christmas of my life. Till 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. 

Everything now falls sparkling into place. The carols seems written for us alone. 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 I suppose, the lights of this tree will fade. But it doesn't matter. Christ is born every year and remains the point of our return, a chance to revisit this day, its star and its cradle and the miracle lying within it. And to share together, mortal though we both may be, this moment of brief eternity.

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