Sunday, December 25, 2005

December 25

WOLCUM be thou hevene king,
Wolcom, born in one morning,
Wolcum for whom we sail sing!
Wolcum Yole!

Wolcum be ye, good Newe Yere,
Wolcum, Twelfthe Day both in fere,
Wolcum sentes fefe and dere,
Wolcum Yole!

Wolcum be ye Candelmesse,
Wolcum be ye Quene of bliss,
Wolcum bothe to more and lesse.
Wolcum Yole!

Wolcum be ye that are here,
Wolcum aile and make good cheer.
Wolcum aile another yere.
Wolcum Yole!

IN the liturgy the solstice themes of the birth and the appearance of the light or the sun powerfully recur, and are interwoven with the related themes of our seeing and of the renewal of the earth. . . .

The theme is not the infancy or childhood of Jesus. It is rather that the presence of the man Jesus is the presence of the Light and of the Sun. . .. Just as with the world's solstice, light is celebrated where light seems most threatened. Solstice festivity means to encourage the return of the light. Christian liturgy at solstice means to pray for the Light and to celebrate its presence. . . .

The immense popularity of Christmas among us is probably due to the dominance in North America of people whose ethnic origins are in northern latitudes where the solstice is an impressive and still powerful event, as it is in much of North America as well. Most of what has been added to Christmas over the ages can be interpreted as solstice phenomena: feasting and greetings and greens and the light-tree and lights against the darkness and the yule-log and nostalgia for the recovery of old memories and, for us especially, gift-giving and consumer over-spending-all are attempts to secure the return of light and summertime wholeness, are mid-winter protest.

These solstice phenomena are powerful metaphors for us. The darkness does stand for our fears and the feast does awaken-perhaps more than we would have them awakenedour hopes. These metaphors ought not be easily maligned. The pastoral intention of the origin of the feast may be recalled. The human feast of Christmas needs a good deal of sympathetic interpretation and loving support. We have had enough campaigns against the world's Christmas. It is more important to ask: "Why do we keep it with such vigor?" For us solstice is an immensely important human and therefore pastoral occasion.--Gordon Lathrop

Tomorrow shall be my dancing day.
I would my true love did so chance
To see the legend of my play
To call my true love to my dance.
Sing, 0 my love, a my love, my love, my love.
This have I done for my true love.
In a manger laid and wrapped I was,
So very poor, this was my chance,
Betwixt an ox and a silly poor ass,
To call my true love to my dance.

Christmas is an ancient feast of frivolity (the Puritans forbade it!) and this English carol seems to have caught that spirit, anticipating the current "theology of play." If we wish you a playful, dancing, merry Christmas our intention is not the hope that you will find some rough mockery of the ecstasy, the pattern, the joy and the grace of the Ancient Dance in the frenzied days, the harried attempts to make sense of our lives, the half-guilty celebrations, the stilted human relationships which mark our fasts and fill our days.

It is rather the hope that you may perceive the legend of God's play: "this have I done for my true love" -and that the festival of this prodigality will strengthen and deepen the elements of the Dance in your life: love and forgiveness and mystery and harmony and grace and attention and wonder and jubilation and praise and bodiliness and freedom and a pas de deux spontaneously discovered for a few moments or labored out over faithful years.

In this year of the plod and march of technology and war, of our own plod and march we wish you the Dance of the word of God. Now he shares our poverty and there is a chance.

I know nothing, except what everyone
knows-if there when Grace dances,
I should dance.

W. H. Auden

--Gordon Lathrop, Christmas Greeting

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