Throughout December we seem to be bombarded by Christmas tunes. Some are rather over optimistic: ‘I wish it could be Christmas everyday’ (really?). A great tune can have an odd message: ‘A spaceman came travelling’. Some tug the heart strings: ‘Feed the world, let them know it’s Christmas time’.
There is of course a long tradition of Christmas music. JS Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, Handel’s Messiah, and for many, Christmas is not Christmas without a carol from John Rutter.
Poets have also been inspired by Christmas. John Benjamin exclaims:
‘And is it true? And is it true,
This most tremendous tale of all, Seen in a stainless window’s hue, A Baby in an ox’s stall:
The maker of the stars and sea Becomes a Child on earth for me?’
One of U A Fanthorpe’s Christmas Card poems, BC - AD, comments:
‘This was the moment when ever energetic Romans Could find nothing better to do
Than counting heads in remote provinces.
And this was the moment
When a few farm workers and three Members of an obscure Persian sect Walked haphazard by starlight straight Into the kingdom of heaven.’
Rowan Williams is a fine poet as well as theologian.On the arrival of the Christ child he tells us:
‘He will come like dark.
One evening when the bursting red December sun draws up the sheet and penny-masks its eyes to yield the star-snowed field of the sky.’
Perhaps my favourite poem comes from the time of Oliver Cromwell, when Christmas was banned and people were put in jail for attending church on Christmas Day (all in the cause of Puritanism). Matthew Hale was very fond of Christmas, prepared to put up with the indignity of imprisonment and wrote one of the most poignant Christmas poems.
‘But art thou come, dear Saviour? Hath Thy love Thus made Thee stoop, and leave thy throne above? ...Dear Lord...I have a room...
And with Thy leave, I’ll fetch some flowers that grow In Thine own garden, faith, and love to Thee;
With these I’ll dress it up, and these shall be
My rosemary and bays, yet when my best
Is done, the room’s not fit for such a Guest.
But here’s the cure,Thy presence Lord, alone
Will make a stall a court, a cratch a throne.’
The Ven Penny Sayer, Archdeacon of Sherborne