I have a guilty secret I’m going to share with you, but I’m sure it’s not mine alone. I do hope not anyway!
But I can’t be the only woman on the planet who sinks into a hot bath with a big glass of wine on Christmas evening and is secretly (and guiltily!) glad that it’s all over for another year. Can I?
And I DO feel guilty, because I truly love Christmas, or at least my fantasy of the perfect Christmas…but let’s be honest, for women all over the world, the reason for the season gets a little lost under the mountains of wrapping paper, shopping lists, fairy lights and mince pies.
Despite all good intentions, we can end up frazzled, exhausted, shrieking at the kids like so many demented crows…..not much peace on earth and goodwill to men there then!
If I’m honest, my perfect Christmas would be quiet and uncluttered, but crammed full of simple pleasures (that you can’t wrap up) like close friends and family, good books, country walks, yummy food and warm conversation and the comforting familiarity of old traditions. And the odd (or not so odd!) cosy pub. Above all though, punctuated with quiet times for reflection.
Isn’t that what Advent is for? Advent means ‘coming’…it’s traditionally a time for quiet, expectant waiting and preparation in our hearts and lives for the celebration of the birth of Jesus, God’s gift to the world. Just as Mary quietly prepared for the coming of her special child, we are to use the time to be still and listen. More and more, that season and its’ rich significance has been drowned out by the roar from the shopping mall.
But the whole Christmas story is about LISTENING.
Mary and the shepherds ‘harkening’ to the Angels’ messages.
Joseph and the wise men listening to their dreams.
God Himself hearing man’s deepest needs and sending the gift of His Son.
So it’s entirely fitting at Christmas to carve out time to step back and listen.
To those around us and to the unspoken stories in their lives.
To listen compassionately to our own deepest selves.
Above all, to listen to the still, small voice of God, whose heart is always turned towards His children in love.
I wrote the following piece for an Advent service performance I did some years ago now. It’s not poetry (I haven’t the patience for that!). I like to think of it as ‘painting with words’, and now seems a good time to dust it off and share, as my little gift to everyone who has stopped by allthingsquiet this year. Whatever your traditions, whatever your beliefs, I hope you enjoy it and I sincerely wish you all every blessing, joy, peace, love and the beauty of quiet contentment this Christmas time!
The Deepest Night
“Christmas is for the kids you know.”…
You hear it all the time.
Infant ears strain to catch the silver singing of the bells.
Waiting, waiting for the morning.
Feeling the heaviness of rustling presents at the foot of the bed!
Hardly daring to breathe lest they vanish – born of magic.
Christmases long past, held in memory…
The winter of ’63.
We lost our dog. America lost their President.
Dad built an igloo in the garden. It was still there in March.
The year Gran lost her dentures in the pudding,
And Mum cremated the turkey.
The sea of soil on the carpet, that year I felled the tree.
“Santa’s come a long way,” mused Dad, drawing on his pipe.
“I think a wee dram might be in order on this cold night.”
Then we grew…
And Christmases, when kids are sick and families at war
And money tight and jobs are lost.
Where is the magic then?
Can we distil it like whisky, to savour and warm us
When life chills the bone?
Or is this just a tinsel time of fancied hopes…
A time for children only?
A dream lost, as we age – a Neverland, unreachable.
Listen, let’s go back ….
It is the deepest night of the year.
Heaven touches earth tonight.
Winter’s breath frozen to this star-spun night,
Pinned to eternity.
The long night ahead, a rumour of snow on the air..
The shepherds on the darkening hill
Stamp their feet against the cold.
Straining towards the first pale sight of dawn.
The distant tinkle of a goat bell.
Else that, all is still.
The whole world, it seems, holds its breath
Far out yet, three mystics following an uncertain star
Set their compass to the hope in their hearts.
The promise of a Coming King.
More than that..
Immanuel. God with us.
And on that word, that hope..
Their thousand mile journey is birthed.
For Mary and Joseph, the waiting is nearly over.
Their journey is just beginning.
For out of a vaulted dome of sky
An angel cathedral sing,
“Glory, glory, glory to God in the Highest and on earth
Peace to men.”
The waiting is over. The true King is here.
The Lion of Judah,
Breathing life into withered hearts.
This Christmas, this God waits for US.
Behind long-closed, half-forgotten places in our hearts.
Where we had turned the key against belief..
With gifts of love and hope and forgiveness and life.
He waits…and it is no myth..
Open the door. The magic can return.
The invitation is for you.
Happy, happy Christmas!