I recently re-read A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. It’s a familiar story to many, of course, and a dramatically emotional one as we meet the sour, shriveled Ebenezer Scrooge and accompany his journey through the sentimental past, the vibrant but unknown-to-him present, and the chilling future, coming through at last to the ecstasy of Christmas morning. The season hardly seems complete until one has read or at least watched a movie of this now-traditional tale.
But there’s another “A Christmas Carol” which I favor. After the ups and downs of the more well-known one, I return again and again to this one: a glimpse from a little distance of the intimate moments between a mother and child, tender and comforting and holy.
The Christ-child lay on Mary’s lap,
His hair was like a light,
(O weary, weary were the world,
But here is all aright.)
The Christ-child lay on Mary’s breast,
His hair was like a star.
(O stern and cunning are the kings,
But here the true hearts are.)
The Christ-child lay on Mary’s heart,
His hair was like a fire.
(O weary, weary is the world,
But here the world’s desire.)
The Christ-child stood at Mary’s knee,
His hair was like a crown,
And all the flowers looked up at,
And all the stars looked down.
Of course, it’s never not a good time to read, but some literature is meant to be enjoyed at certain times of the year. In keeping with the spirit of the season, Christmas offers up a great bounty of stories, poems, and carols ranging from carefree and delightful to quiet and contemplative. Some are classics known to most of the English-speaking world, some are family favorites, others are new discoveries, a few may even be very personal treasures.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing some of the words that move me most during this season. Here’s a bit from George MacDonald’s Adela Cathcart to begin with.
“The winter is the childhood of the year. Into this childhood of the year came the child Jesus; and into this childhood of the year must we all descend. It is as if God spoke to each of us according to our need: My son, my daughter, you are growing old and cunning; you must grow a child again, with my son, this blessed birth-time. You are growing old and careful; you must become a child. You are growing old and distrustful; you must become a child. You are growing old and petty, and weak and foolish; you must become a child — my child, like the baby there, that strong sunrise of faith and hope and love, lying in his mother’s arms in the stable.”