Advent Firesiders

Begone, dull care (2017)

Enough! As the old song says: "Begone, dull care! My wife shall dance, and I shall sing, so merrily pass the day; for I hold it is the wisest thing to drive dull care away."

My point is that all the build-up to Christmas Day makes it ever more difficult to enjoy it when it comes. The extreme version of this idea is that we cannot enjoy a special meal unless it is preceded by fasting and that we cannot enjoy a special meal on any day if we eat special meals every day.

But put all that aside and there is a deeper truth: we have lost our sense of Incarnational wonder. When we put the baby into the crib at the end of Midnight Mass it is like the final act of a drama rather than its opening. We need to think of the run-up to Christmas in much the same way as the weeks before a fair; we spend a huge amount of effort, amid rising excitement, getting ready. Personally, I might prefer the penitence and contemplation model but that hardly matters now; if we are to preserve Christmas as the second Christian festival then we have to think of the weeks before as a preparation but not in the traditional way: then, hopefully, we will look with real excitement into the crib.

The statement that God became man is at one level a cliché going back almost two thousand years, but we must live it anew each year for without it we would be left to worship distant, wraith-like gods, like the God who puzzled and frustrated the Chosen People, like the gods who romped on Olympus or demanded bloody concessions from frightened people.

And so, in spite of my well-meant grumbling, the point is that we should unreservedly rejoice on Christmas day rather than simply going through time-honoured motions which largely involve getting it over. We should use the time of preparation to think through how we can make the best of every minute, from the time we arrive at the Nativity play, or kneel at the crib at midnight, to the time we have put the last glass away; well, almost the last glass, for we might just want a dram to give thanks to Jesus at the end of his holy day.