Will the real Christmas Story please stand up?


Uppermost in the mind at Philologus Towers this Christmas is not decking the halls, piping in the flaming pudding, or broaching the barrels in the cellar, but various health issues requiring hospital appointments and procedures, to take place at times as yet unspecified. If these constitute the citadel of our festive experience, the encircling walls of the stronghold are the dire straits in which large numbers of our fellow citizens, public sector workers not least, find themselves, as the result of the callous behaviour of others. Beyond that grim barrier lie the barbed-wire festooned entrenchments of the rich and powerful, who, for some reason, have not yet been sent empty away. In the fields outside, the vicious conflicts of Ukraine, Myanmar, Palestine, and many other lands rage on. Between the battle lines the myriad refugees wander houseless. And enveloping all, the Climate Catastrophe looms.

This, in fact, is the real Christmas Story: the time in which God became incarnate was much like that. The poor and oppressed wept, the homeless wandered, wars raged, and the rich and powerful sat smug and heartless in their castles. The manger, whatever exactly it was, was not bedecked; instead a whole extra townful of disgruntled, uprooted census registrands was packed into the guest rooms and roof spaces of the little town of Bethlehem, which probably did not sleep deeply or dreamlessly with all those extra people present.

We writers often put our characters into difficult and distressing situations, their personal trials enmeshed in wider social or political upheavals. With the author’s oversight, we know what the outcome will be: hopefully ‘a happy issue out of all their afflictions’. But when we ourselves are in travail, in the real world rather than a fictitious one, we can only pray for the virtues of patience and hope, trusting that the joy inaugurated by the Nativity will be the eventual outcome, whenever in the calendar it arrives.

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