Enduring Christmas — a meditation
(via the Guardian Unlimited)
Last year at St Paul’s Cathedral the novelist Fay Weldon was received into the Church of England. Here she reflects on the main event in the Christian calendar.
John Betjeman got it about right in his poem, just called, no frills, Christmas. He caught the extraordinary mixture of the sacred and profane that is the season, and the sacrament, and the hell and heaven of it, and makes good enough Christians of us all, however much and however little we believe.
It’s a pagan festival, of course, all lights and fires in the dark. A couple of days after bleak midwinter, and just fractionally the light begins to return. The season has turned, the days are getting longer, the sun begins its journey back to strength: let’s give it all the help we can. Let’s sing and dance and shop and spend and feast and give gifts, and then give and feast some more. And leave worrying about the cost to January when we’ve settled down and are back to normal, and the cold of common sense gets back into our bones. Mithras, the Roman sun god, had his birthday around now too. Nothing’s new. Same old human race. But of course we’re more than that.
The holly in the windy hedge
And round the Manor House the yew
Will soon be stripped to deck the ledge,
The altar, font and arch and pew,
So that the villagers can say
The Church looks nice on Christmas Day.
The Church looks nice; our houses look pretty; so does the Christmas Tree; the high street’s looking good this year. Merry Christmas to you all. Language fails us: we are none of us good at expressing the wonder we feel, the sense of awe at the nature of our own existence, of the way we leap into life from our mother’s wombs, and pass into the unknown, of our sense of good and evil, of our fragile understanding of the mysterious, of our own significance, the importance of each small step we take through life. Of the very sanctity of the ordinary.