Posts have been a bit sparce on this blog lately. Is it that I've had nothing to say? Have I struggled for inspiration?
Yes, and yes. Simple answers for simple questions. We could leave it at that if you like. I will wish you a Merry Christmas and a safe journey, wherever you are bound.
Or, you could stay with me a while, as I prod and rattle a cage or two (gently of course).
(Europa Rosarium, Sangerhausen, Germany)
You're still here then? I'm glad you stayed.
Let's begin with the fairies that live at the bottom of gardens. My garden has a few, but they're shy and good at hiding. I sometimes think I notice a trace as a leaf, deftly pulled aside by tiny fingers, springs back into place, or a rustle in a garden bed makes me look up from my book. Our dealings are fleeting you see, nothing more than an inward smile and a whimsical nod to mark them.
I sense you shifting uneasily and wondering where this is going. Relax. You are in safe hands.
Some people of course would deny that any such fairy beings exist. Where is their imagination I ask? Where is their trust and innocence? What are the stories that light up their lives and transcend the everyday? Well I suppose they might have trust; in things different from those I trust in.
Can't pretend to be an authority on what others might trust in but I can account, with some authority, for myself.
Christmas, for example. There is a spirit in Christmas that speaks to me even though I can't see it or touch it. However much I try to dissect it, analyse it, or explain it away as a creation of consumer culture, it defies me. It is as real as anything in life. I feel it. That's enough for me.
Christmas delights me in spite of myself. I can't put my finger on exactly why. Coloured lights, Christmas trees, and carols play a part, but they are not Christmas in themselves. Giftwrapped presents? No, while they're nice, they're not Christmas. Family gatherings? As much as I love everyone in my family, such get togethers can be trials as much as delights. Any of these things can be missing and Christmas would still weave its magic.
Christmas gives me a renewed passion for life and for others. It reminds me that I am part of something larger than myself. It causes me to think about my life and how I'm spending it. It inspires me to do better than I have in the past. Memories of Christmases past stretch back through the years and passages of my life to childhood; to where it began for me. At this time of year I remember my grandparents, long gone, and how they loved me. I hear long forgotten Christmas carols, unwrap long discarded presents again, smell those delicious cooking smells again, taste figs, dates and stone fruit of all types in my mind. Such are the memories that return every year.
Christmas anchors me. It reminds me of who I am and from where I come. It cuts through the layers of my selfishness, even for only a week or two. Just as with fairies at the bottom of the garden, I am richer for its presence in my life, whether or not I can understand it, quantify it, commodify it, or tell myself I'm too old to be taken in. It is as real as I am. What more do I need to know?
I am noticing this Christmas time that our culture has changed significantly. Some of that leaves me sad. So be it. Change is inevitable and we can either accept and work with it, or not accept and be sidelined by it. I know that increasing numbers of people in my culture do not share my Christian faith, or have any spiritual dimension to their lives for that matter. I am comfortable with that. I think Christendom has done a lot of damage along with the good. Churches have allowed themselves for the past 1700 years or so to enjoy the trappings of power and the riches that come with it. That was a mistake, for which Christians in today's world will pay an increasingly heavy price as people turn towards churches with hostility. The Christian gospel was never about power and influence. It was always about setting people free. A pity churches largely forgot that for so long.
For some people, life is no doubt nasty, brutal and short. I have been luckier, although no doubt like you I've had a few ups and downs. Part of my good fortune has been to know that there is more to life than toys and prizes; more than self interest; more than is apparent to eyes and ears. I have learned that it is just as much folly to sneer at another person's faith as it is to deny the possibility that there might be fairies at the bottom of every garden, never to be discovered by those who will not see.
Whether you share my faith, or a different one, or believe you have none at all, I wish you a Merry Christmas and hope that you might catch a glimpse of the fairies who are surely there at the bottom of your own garden.