Thursday 24 December 2015

On December, 24th

Nativité by Georges de La Tour

On December, 24th,
The Girls said with some disdain
that they knew 
what the last window, when opened, would reveal.

And there were right, of course! The last window was the doors of the church of our Victorian village chosen for Advent Calendar. What could there be behind the doors of the church but a Nativity? And a Nativity it was!

But what is the aim of an Advent Calendar? To help count down the days towards Christmas. And what is Christmas but the Festivity and reminder of the birth of Christ? Christ, Jesus, Emmanuel, Prince of Peace, God-with-Us: all these names for a baby in the arms of his mother and under the gaze of his father - foster father on Earth (Joseph) and Father in the Heavens (God) -. But let us not be trapped in controversy and theology. 

Christmas for Christians is the birth of a child who is both Man and God. Or the advent of God on Earth with all the attributes of Man.

There are very grand paintings of this scene of Jesus' birth. But I like the Nativité by La Tour. It is so close to what would it have been when a birth occurred in 17th century France. With the added mystery given by the famous light, which is hidden from us and yet illuminating the whole scene with the focus on the baby's head.

The child is a new-born one with his eyes tightly shut, a little snub nose, and the mouth open. He is also tightly swaddled and his mother holds him firmly while looking at him with wonder, a little fear, reverence, admiration. Yes, he is hers and he is a separate human being. I guess all mothers discover this when they hold - particularly - their first born. Issued from their cells, carried in their wombs during nine months, part of their body, theirs and when born, suddenly, separated from them: on their own.

The light is glowing but the hand of the other woman protects them for too much fierceness and the red dress, colour of blood, is softly blended with the darkness behind.

Red, colour of the blood of the birth of the child, of the blood of the death of the man he will become. And softly blended with the darkness as the woman will stay in the shadow except for the birth and the death where she  will stand at the foot of the cross.

Is this child God made Man? So fragile, so small, so devoid of strength and power. A baby like other babies. Is he really The One we have been waiting for during all these weeks and all those centuries? 

And what changes has he brought?

This year, it seems that things have changed for the worst. Bombings, wars, beheadings, loneliness, torture, hunger, homelessness, fright, cold, hatred, evil seemed let loose. And there are fools to believe there is a God who is omnipotent and goodness itself. Fools!

Yes, fools. 

This is what I think of myself when I roll into a tight ball of despair. What is good in my life and why should I believe God exists and comes to us: where is my brother? Where is Mother? Why am I stuck with The Girls in a place I don't particularly relish when it smells of feasts and we are alone? Why are The Girls disabled? Why couldn't I have a life of my own? Why do I have to fight to get enough to eat for the three of us and why is there usually not much left for me? Why these two minor brain accidents that have left me with disabilities?

Where is God when I cry towards Him? Does He exist?

The Church gives answers but one has to already believe in God to believe in the answers of the Church.


But what would be the meaning of Christmas without this birth? Let's call it Saturnalia or Solstice celebration or any other name. Why should we exchange presents? Why should we make it a special day?

Ancient beliefs? Foolishness?

But a child - any child - is a promise. It is a life that begins. It is Life that goes on. It is the life made of a father and a mother's lives. I have talked so much of my family during this Advent Calendar time. Mother. Father. Siblings. The Girls. Grand-parents. Great-grand-mother. Great-uncles and Great-aunts. Uncles and Aunts. Cousins. Godmothers and Godfathers. And these forefathers who lived to build the old fortified castle. And these who built the house we live in. We are their lives that go on, even disabled or lonely or depressed. This makes a long stream of life, starting with babies and children who were, each of them, promises.

Therefore there is something irrationaln deep within me, that makes me believe that this night "unto us a child is born", and that this child is a promise towards Peace on Earth and Life in the Heavens. It is Hope beyond all hope.

And here we are with all lights on. And the tree, and the stars, and the ornaments, and the candles, and the gifts. 

Thank you, you who have travelled with us through the time of the Advent Calendar. You have survived my ramblings and chatter about traditions in our family. Thank you for your support and your comments. Thank you to have read my daily rant.

The Girls and I wish you 
a very Happy and Merry Christmas!

Hark, The Herald Angels Sing
King's College Choir (Cabridge) 2011

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