Monday, 19 December 2022


This refrain from that hearty carol “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” is all very well but there’s plenty to dismay us right now. An epidemic of strikes by those who never go on strike like nurses. Ambulance workers saying they’ll only attend heart attack and stroke incident emergencies where there’s a “time issue”….I  don’t like the sound of that one little bit.

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen - Lyrics, Hymn Meaning and Story

These are disputatious times, quite unlike the festively, riotous prelude to Christmas I’m used to. Not least it’s very cold. I recall that magical poem of T.S. Eliot “The Journey of the Magi” the story of an endless freezing journey to confront the paradox of the Christian Story – of birth and death - with  that sense of discomfort and cold – surely no wise man would do this:

“A cold coming we had of it,

Just the worst time of the year

For a journey, and such a long journey:

The ways deep and the weather sharp,

The very dead of winter.”

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I love that “very dead of winter” as I watch the winter-flowering Salvia in our garden giving up the ghost and withering in the face of the very dead of winter. Eliot’s poem is the much needed antidote to the vision of these jolly Kings on their sprightly camels (Eliot’s are galled, sore-footed, refractory.”) Christmas can be horrible – just ask yonder peasant, gathering winter fuel three miles from home – he probably won’t make it back through this cruel frost.

Fireplace With A Blazing Fire. Photo. Stock Photo, Picture And Royalty Free  Image. Image 42137793.


Yet there are things which signal the essence of Christmas. A few days ago as the wind howled and the icicles formed I lit the first log fire of the year. It crackled and burst into glorious flame (“Get a peasant to gather more fuel” I shouted before apologising to my wife, not amused at this in the current cost of living crisis.) The sound of Carols – great tunes like Jesus Christ the Apple Tree, Adam Lay Ybounden and the Sussex Carol “On Christmas Night All Christians Sing”. If they did the census in December there’d be new headlines in the press about the shock revival of Christianity in the UK. Somehow the sound, smell and mystery of Christmas binds us all together in a traditional Christmas culture.

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Our houses are festooned with garlands, wreaths, crackers and that special smell of Christmas food. The aroma of ginger and orange peel and the constant appeal of TV chefs advising us on perfect Christmas food because “let’s face it, this is the season of indulgence.” Who otherwise would we eat something like Stollen except now? But sadly this will not be a season of indulgence for quite a lot of people this year. Maybe, unlike many calls to our sense of charity, this Christmas will make more people reflect on things that really matter.


A few days ago I saw a thrush feathers pluffed up against the cold. Not a timid bird, no peasant bird, a bruiser, the sort from whom a cat would retreat muttering in feline “Sorry, something to attend to at home.” Like that doughty bird we need to pluff up our feathers and do our best to enjoy and bring joy. King Wenceslas is a good place to start. Or St. Rocco who was the Franciscan sainted for helping plague sufferers, refugees and travellers in Venice in the 14th century. 

Pin on SAINTS TO PRAY TO.....and other prayers we all need.....

In these current years of Covid, pandemics and of refugees I think we should look to see how they both got it so right back then.


Have a happy Christmas and, in 2023, a New Year to enjoy.


Richard and Kate Hall

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