December is mostly Advent though we battle with Christmas everyday, conceding the nativities, the shopping, every organization's carol services, The argument has been lost and as sleepers awake to the month of comings and goings we prepare ourselves excitedly for the hopeful warmth of Christmas, knowing how precarious it all is.
The old themes that held us once in an Advent earthed in the soil of fear and poverty have died, judged by the rejection of both heaven and hell. New, softer themes adorn these weeks now.
The Prophets rail, but we hear only the promise. The Baptist frowns but we only think of wild honey. The Blessed Lady, it seems, only challenges us to smile, and the Child arrives, wrapped in the security of school videos, cards, the trundling bundles of check-out-trolleys, the smell of pines and all the jolly distractions.
Be pious, complain, long for the pure - but this is the real world. Jesus was born in his time. The Christ must be born in ours. Rejoice in the trivia, that all is not forgotten in the paleness of humanist morality. Imagine these darkest days celebrated by nothing but ethics. What is less human than humanism? The secular world is shot through with moments of tinselled glory. The angels keep their ancient stations. Each ridiculous trinket on every startled Christmas tree, each piece of wrapping, each card, is a subliminal insistence on the nearness of God.
December is not all Advent. This last week, this sleeping octave where, for the lucky, work is suspended or the worries of sharply timed redundancy mock the merriest, here new themes of hope shout out. For the profane (no, no disparagement) it is the hope of a new year, but for those of us who have stumbled on this treasure-buried-field, and thieved the faith which was not ours, there are other hopes, and new fears.
Wenceslas walks the snow, but it is red with the life of Stephen. John revives us with the Word of Life, but only in time to watch the Innocent die, as die they always do. This birth brings death. We are faced with realities, but stay at home for the rite of Mary Poppins, who alone is practically perfect. The sinless child sleeps half remembered in the nursery of our forgetfulness, as we eat the cold turkey of our withdrawal from the world. So much nicer than when it’s hot.
The cold Child cries, knowing that the world is all there is and, the longest night over, the creeping sun will stretch each day until it darkens at noon.
But for now, let us rejoice that life is all, that all is life, and that God is glad for the moments of living, of love, of tender joy that can catch us unawares.