What a time; no time to rest. This is the breathing space to fulfil all those tasks left over; and yet there is time for good company also.
Sitting around the glowing fire, groaning meal swelling bellies and swelling talk, walnuts handed round; I can still crack them between my palms, the fair sex scurrying and chattering, men talking of old days in uniform, well remembered for the good parts anyway. (Never mind the memories of waking in ice caking a sodden tent, unforgiving wind and the rats, bold and vicious enemy are the rats, but say nothing of that – not before the ladies, who need not know of anything sordid.) Just recount the heroism, the solidity, the warmth of old times and the warmth of present times, felt more truly in the mellowed years.
We returned from church full of hymns and psalms, shorn of the silly secular season’s songs, making praise point to the astounding gift that began in a little hill town, διοτι ουκ ην αυτοις τοπος εν τω καταλυματι (in the straw, up away from the voracious rats), but which only began there and must move on and take us with him, all the way to a lonely hillside without a city wall. It is the whole ministry of Christ which should be the cause of joy, grasping towards fathoming an answer to the psalmist’s question; What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?
And so to the evening after Christmas. To say the ladies bring a natural joy to the company is true but unjust, for it is for each man and woman, taking joy in his or her own heart’s companion, equal, complimentary, that makes, for what was it all for if not for this? For love and friendship, for the Arthurian ideal or Tennyson’s idea of it: “To love one maiden only, cleave to her, And worship her by years of noble deeds, Until they won her; for indeed I knew Of no more subtle master under heaven”
The children have gathered and played, and charmed and showed wisdom beyond their years without the burden of cares we bear. Their joys make their new toys come to life in their hands. This is what we strive for, through however so many challenges, and triumph in them.
The juice is poured, sweetmeats brought forth for those still with space in their bellies to take them. In the one son-of-man who came for us all, all people are shown to be one, and even if we conclave together as one family or one circle of close friends, barring the door to the wind and the world, here we see the world brought together; we are sipping tea from China or hot chocolate from the realms of New Spain, nibbling biscuits imbued with ginger spices of Arabia and some delicate sweets bought in a paper bag from a small shop in St Petersburg, while the table is decorated with sugar-plumbs in passable imitation of those we pick from our own trees in the autumn. Around this unnecessarily laden table dance the remembrances, the hopes, the fears, the happinesses and the sadnesses of the year and the year to come.
We know the morning is back to work on the tasks left over from the year, but let us for an evening enjoy a moment of rest and quiet exuberance.
A merry Christmas to all.
- Peace at Christ-tide
- Tell us art thou he that should come to reign
- The fearsome state of manhood
- Family, faith, flag, freedom
- And hold their manhoods cheap
- By Thomas Hobbes:
- By Tom Wright:
- Advent for Everyone: A Journey with the Apostles
- Creation, Power and Truth: The Gospel in a World of Cultural Confusion
- The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan