Perhaps our observance, celebration and misrecognition of Christmas are silken threads in a grander tapestry. Maybe the enduring shadows of the Christian, the pagan and the rapaciously commercial are only disparate mirrors of our yearning to feel secure, to return 'home', wherever home is. There are, and always were, a kaleidoscope of Christmas narratives, each negotiated to suit time's agenda of demography, geography and power, and often ultimately leading to an absurdity of juxtapositions: who has not seen a tableau of a Bethlehem stable surrounded by snow, or the Magi robed in the heavy attire of the early Renaissance, presumably to keep out the icy Arctic winds howling in off the Eastern Mediterranean ?
Very many of us give the Christian tradition of Christmas meaning by 'dressing' it in whatever clothes fit our context, and then add a plethora of colourful 'borrowings' - blingy trees, santa outfits and felt reindeer antlers - to give it some kind of immediacy. Others still go straight for the gin. For these last, who might share some fellow feeling with Greg Lake, the Christmas we get, we deserve.
In spite, or possibly because of, such seasonal blandishments, we create our own interior stories: few of us, even those with the most secular of imaginations, can resist the narcotic of Carols from Kings. And what is it about finding an intimate, sometimes lachrymose, moment in a cathedral, with the voices of the ancients ringing across the Nave from high window to high window, that speaks simple and true to us ? Faith, at such moments, may be entirely irrelevant to the brief, but sublime, contentment found in a quiet corner of an otherwise cacophonous world.
And, as many writers have told us, the written word may be alchemised at such moments. The story is entirely our own...
In the words of the great Dave Allen's weekly valedictory: may your god go with you.
A Merry Christmas to all of our readers.
Article by Dr Steve Whitaker