For me, it’s a rare Christmas that I don’t read U A Fanthorpe’s poem, BC:AD, and a rarer one that I don’t become tearful as I do so; having used it at Midnight services in the past, I recall how carefully I had to control my voice as I read the last two lines as midnight came and we lit the central candle in the Advent wreath, but we’ll come to those words shortly.
The poem begins by describing a dull world where nothing happened.
“ . . . Only dull peace
Sprawled boringly over the earth.”
In only a few words the state in which we so often find ourselves has been described: an ordinariness that is not so much comforting as depressingly dreary. I am reminded of the adventure stories we read in childhood; the ones that began, “Nothing ever happens to us . . . ” and then, of course, the heroes and heroines of the story went on to have amazing adventures that we in our prosaic little worlds could only envy. As we grow older, many of us find a true contentment in the everyday, saving a bit of mild adventure for our holidays and, given that stress these can bring, it seems enough. The ordinary, which can be a blessing, as we recalled two days ago. So, when U A Fanthorpe picturesquely says, even energetic Romans could find nothing better to do than count heads in remote provinces, we understand and are almost yawning.
“And this was the moment . . .”
Suddenly . . . suddenly, quietly something momentous happened.
“When a few farm workers and three
members of an obscure Persian sect .”
Suddenly, the most unlikely people,
“Walked haphazard by starlight straight
into the kingdom of heaven.”
These are the lines that move me deeply, even as I recall them now.
Starlight: that most wonderful and, in our modern world rare, light: a soft light emanating from above that transforms the darkness into something calming and gentle; by that light the least expected people discover that they have stepped, not merely to see a child, but through a lighted door that led to something greater and more wonderful than they could ever dream or imaging – that we can ever dream or imagine.
Jesus is born. Christ is with us. The kingdom of heaven silently, gently touches our own world and the light from that touch remains with us always.
May you have a happy and blessed Christmas.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has never mastered it. (John 1:5)