Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Working from home today, and listening as I do each year to the broadcast from King's College (Cambridge) of A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols. This lovely holiday tradition dates back to 1918. In the midst of a terrible World War and the Spanish Flu to boot, Eric Milner-White expressed his hope and his faith - and not a little bit of pluck - by creating this program of Scripture readings and hymns celebrating the mystery of God's presence in the world, even in its darkest hour.
As an atheist, I don't buy the basic story line at all, but the human spirit that gave birth to this tradition, and the joy and beauty of its performance, surpasses any criticism. It is a good-hearted program, full of man's desire for peace and fellowship, a reminder to be compassionate, and a reminder of the dignity of all men - the savior of the world, born in the humblest of circumstances.
The broadcast of the Nine Lessons always puts me in the right frame of mind and mood for Christmas. It pulls back from the crummy commercialism that pervades and pollutes - that sucks the life and meaning out of everything it touches. Bill O'Reilly likes to accuse us atheists of making war on Christmas - but the war was fought and won among believers - without a shot being fired, the 80% of Americans that call themselves followers of Christ have turned this great day into a me-first, glitz-and-garland, credit-card-stretching, drop-dead-shopping nightmare.
I am in a great mood - don't be misled by that last bit of commentary - and I am looking forward to hosting my family tomorrow for what I am sure will be a lovely day.
Here's wishing all of you a Merry Christmas!
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No subject for immortal verse
That we who lived by honest dreams
Defend the bad against the worse."
-- Cecil Day-Lewis from Where Are The War Poets?
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