I was reading a reflection this week by English actress Emily Watson which reminded me a little of my sermon last Sunday and the litany of fears that we hold for our world at the current time; climate change and conflict, and the ensuing human dislocation and poverty.
And according to Watson, at least initially, much of the blame for these things should be laid at Christianity’s door; “every act of violence that has been, is and will be committed for or against his name”, and the commercial nature of the Christmas festival. “Such a generator of plastic and waste, propelling the carbon curve ever upward…pushing us ever closer to that extinction tipping point.” None of this she says, seems to be an act of love. None of it seems very Christian. “Not that I am one,” she says.
I’m nine? Ten? Eleven? We’re at midnight mass in the tiny Norman church in my granny’s Dorset village. The farmer’s wife, Rachel, is squeezing every last drop of glory out of the tiny organ and as we launch into the last verse of ‘O come all ye faithful’, I glance down at my watch… to check.
Yes, it’s gone midnight. It’s really Christmas and, yes, we are allowed to sing that last verse: ‘Yea, Lord, we greet thee, born this happy morning…” And it is a happy morning. I am so happy. I beam up at my parents who are singing lustily away – even though I know that they’re not Christians so I’m not really either I suppose. But something is making my heart sing.
We refuse all offers of a lift back to the cottage and walk home. The four of us. Mum, Dad, my sister and me. As we pass the farm, we listen in the utter quiet…[and we] all hold hands. The only sound in fact is our feet crunching in the frozen mud on the lane. We stop between the hedgerows and look up. It’s a clear night with a deep frost, the sky vast and full of stars, logic of daytime wiped from the earth… I am saved by a smell, wood-smoke, its burnt earth embrace summoning us back to the hearth, where there will be hot chocolate waiting by the fire and we will light real candles on the tree…. [That night] I go to bed happy….”
What has happened since then, she muses? Yes, she has grown up. But if her children – other people’s children – all of us – are to know these joys, these wonders, this wondering that lies at the heart of everything; palpable with a love that reaches out to us and we reach for as well – ‘Yea, Lord, we greet thee!’ – we must treasure the ordinary miracles of our life together…the things that makes our hearts sing. “Change is coming anyway,” Watson says, “What kind of change is up to us.”
As we are surrounded by beautiful music this morning, may God continue to inspire our wonder, our joy and our commitment to share these things with others.