The day after
December 26, 2015 22 Comments
Secular Christmases, like our lives in general, have a great build up to important events, quite often the event itself does not quite live up to it, and then the day after is a bit of a let-down – and that’s where we are now! I did think of letting everyone have a day off my musings as a late present, but I promised dear Neo that I would fill the gap, and in thinking about this, it hit me that there is a parallel with our religious life. For those who have had a conversion experience, is there the same sort of anticlimactic feeling, or does the new life into which you are born supersede this? I’d be interested in hearing.
I’ve never had a conversion-experience. From my earliest memories of Sunday school as a little girl, it all made sense to me; God is there, and I have never felt he was not; even when he seemed far away, I knew it was me who was far off, not him – and he was always holding out his hands to receive me when I stopped being a brat. I know some here, and elsewhere, who have had the experience of ‘lapsing’ and coming back, but again, my life has been more mundane. That’s why it would be interesting to hear from you if you have been through a conversion about what happened next.
In many ways, we like dramatic moments in our lives, and we may even need them as an antidote or corrective to the mundane nature of much of what happens to us everyday. But is that the right way to respond to what God has given us? My beloved John Keble provided quite another way of looking at this in a poem written in 1822 which is now a hymn which includes two wonderful closing verses, which are our present on this day after the Christ Mass:
The trivial round, the common task,
will furnish all we ought to ask, —
room to deny ourselves, a road
to bring us daily nearer God.
Prepare, O Lord, in your dear love,
for perfect life with you above;
and help us, this and every day,
to live more nearly as we pray.
He suggests that we can ‘hallow’ – that is make holy – even the meanest thing we do if we will do it for God. There is nothing, however humble it is, that cannot be done well in God’s name – and that can include resting from our labours.
As some of you will know I have not been very well, and for a time it was thought that I might not get well again. I moved from a time of immense busyness through to one of complete inaction – and I’d imagine that the ‘bends’ which deep-sea divers get could be a lit like that – the sudden absence of pressure makes one dizzy and ill. Our modern life – with the Internet ever there – does but little to prepare us for quietness and reflection. That’s why a well-spent Advent can be a blessing, because it helps prepare us for the sudden cessation – even if for many it is replaced by another sort of activity at Christmas.
One feature of the way in which Advent has all but disappeared as a concept in our society, is that we miss the way it paves the way for Christmas. Advent, in the church, is a time of penitence and waiting, which is then succeeded by the joy and the feasting of Christmas – all the way through to the Feast of the Epiphany on 6 January. But I see now that even clergy, after the climactic events of Christmas day itself, take time off and see this as an opportunity for their own holiday. I can see why, but think it a shame, because we have just entered a time of celebrating the most important event there will ever be. So, here at Neo’s, we’ll be remembering some of those celebrations which seem to becoming lost. Christmas is the beginning of our thankful celebrations – not the end. It is a time for giving thanks. And for those of us still clearing up – I recommend Keble’s lines.