On not wishing you a Merry Christmas

25 December, 2012

Like 99% of carol-lovers, my favourite Christmas hymn is Oh Holy Night (ESPECIALLY this rendition. Jokes. Ha, I need you to go and listen to the whole of that and chuckle because it I am momentarily going to get a bit serious-pants on you… plus  YOU KNOW that is what that same 99% of us sound like when we attempt to sing it.)
Oh Holy Night has radical roots and inspired the odd bit of world-change. It was written by a socialist poet, rather than a pious church-goer, and partly due to this and partly because this lyrical lefty collaborated with a Jewish man on it, it ended up being banned by the Church (Gah, they are always banning the good stuff!!!!)

“Truly He taught us to love one another,
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains He shall break, for the slave is our brother.
And in His name all oppression shall cease.”

Despite being outlawed the hymn spread across oceans and the words of this final verse captured the hearts of American abolitionists. It was woven into their rich creative story telling and became part of the movement against slavery.

Back in Europe, a few years later, out in the fields of the brutal Franco-Prussian war, it was used again with most practical inspiration. Legend goes that on Christmas Eve, in the midst of the blood bath, a solider jumped out of his trench and, belted out all three verses as the conflict hushed around him. His hymn was met by a hymn from the other trench, and there then followed 24 hours of peace.

Because, you know what? Beauty does this. It takes our hearts and minds and shows us what is possible. Words and stories and images capture our imagination and motivate our hands and feet. Our fingertips grasp the edges of justice and freedom and peace.

For me this happens when I encounter the story of a marginalised family and the birth of a vulnerable baby, when I sing the carols that portray the mystery of what was begun in that dusty shed. For others it happens when they light their evening candles of Hanukkah  to reflect on even more ancient stories about second chances and peace. And for others who are celebrating the break in the cold harsh winter, the rebirth conjured up in the as-old-as-the-earth solstice inspires change.

So yes, it is Christmas day. But I’m not sure I will say Happy Christmas… we come from so many deep traditions and incredible heritages… yet we share so many common festive themes. So whatever you are celebrating, I wish you a day filled with tangible possibilities:
peace in your relationships
generousity in your neighbourhoods
freedom in your hearts
social justice in our Governments
the promise of a fresh start
And a glimpse of beauty to help you believe these things can happen.


You Might Also Like

  • Jenna 25 December, 2012 at 11:00 am

    Today I will think a little harder about the meaning of Christmas. So glad I came across your blog this time last year in the midst of breastfeeding sleeplessness. I always find it fun, informative and gives me hope that there are more people out there striving for a peaceful better world. Thank you. X

    • Lucy 25 December, 2012 at 5:50 pm

      Jenna, thank you so much for your lovely comment : ) I am glad you found the blog. Wishing you a meaningful festive break!

  • lally young 25 December, 2012 at 12:57 pm

    I will wish you a somber and thoughtful xmas. As we dont believe in commercialism, it only clutters up peoples homes and minds. I am trying to teach my children that it isnt all about wanting the latest gadget. And sometimes less is more. I dont know if you have seen indespicable me, but my daughter wanted a unicorn that one of the mingions made, it was a spoon with a face drawn on and an ice cream cone for its horn. So we made her one and put it in her stocking for her. And that is all she has played with all morning.
    Its the simple things in life that children look for the most, never mind the electronic gadgets and fancy flashing whatyamacallits. adults should look at children for guidance sometimes and look at things through a childs eyes, it is quite a magical experience.
    I always think of world war one, when both sides played football in the trenches, that also means a lot to me. Wishing all of you the best of wishes and lots of love this season

    • Lucy 25 December, 2012 at 5:53 pm

      Hi Lally! Love your comment, so true about the joy kids find in the most simple things. And I just couldn’t agree more about children being our teachers and guides – we have so very much to learn from them about joy and love. Much love to you and your family x

  • Firefly Phil 25 December, 2012 at 6:32 pm

    So we also need to give, and receive, things you can’t buy in the shops, like patience, sympathetic ears, compassion,and love. After reading Lally’s comment, I found this: I can’t listen with dry eyes…

    • Lucy 26 December, 2012 at 11:11 am

      Ah, i can’t watch as have bad internet where i am. Thank you though i look forward to it…

  • Vickyb 25 December, 2013 at 9:45 pm

    I definitely do wish people a Happy Christmas, as it is a day filled with such joy for me – it’s meaningful for me to say it, because I have a Christian faith; I agree that, for those who celebrate other traditions, are part of other cultures, or recognise other festivals, it wouldn’t be as relevant to say!

    However, rather than not saying ‘Happy Christmas’ or similar, I think we can gain a lot from not only recognising this, but other festivals from other faiths; there is so much to learn from inter-faith sharing. Whilst we attend church in our house, we also recognise Jewish festivals from our Jewish heritage and, as global citizens, we acknowledge the importance of Eid, Diwali, Chinese New Year, Solstice etc. There is so much joy and festivity in learning and growing from the beliefs of others; very often, as you say, they share such similar themes to our own traditions.

    I agree that the important things are peace, joy, strength, kindness and mindfulness – all things that are part of a truly happy Christmas, for me. Wishing you and your family a day filled with the same.