I Have a mixed reaction to Christmas as I do to all things Christian.
It comes mostly from being raised in a preacher’s household. Also, from not turning away from my entrance point in the world (Church and Christianity), but embracing it in a weird sort of way. I have found knowledge of Christianity is very helpful in understanding the last 2000 years of Western Civilization. Camille Paglia recommends that college students study comparative religions. I believe she is an atheist. I can relate to the need to satisfy my curiosity about life through understanding as much as possible about human life on the planet.
Maybe that is a bit of a big chunk to contemplate, but it is Christmas morning and I am running on less sleep than usual.
Anyway, this morning I decided to make a Christmas playlist. After the Linus and Lucy theme (only related to Christmas in my pea brain), I was stumped. So, of course, before too long I found myself listening to the Christmas Oratorio of Bach.
Which leads me to the Burning Babe by Robert Southwell
As I in hoary winter’s night stood shivering in the snow,
Surpris’d I was with sudden heat which made my heart to glow;
And lifting up a fearful eye to view what fire was near,
A pretty Babe all burning bright did in the air appear;
Who, scorched with excessive heat, such floods of tears did shed
As though his floods should quench his flames which with his tears were fed.
“Alas!” quoth he, “but newly born, in fiery heats I fry,
Yet none approach to warm their hearts or feel my fire but I!
My faultless breast the furnace is, the fuel wounding thorns,
Love is the fire, and sighs the smoke, the ashes shame and scorns;
The fuel Justice layeth on, and Mercy blows the coals,
The metal in this furnace wrought are men’s defiled souls,
For which, as now on fire I am to work them to their good,
So will I melt into a bath to wash them in my blood.”
With this he vanish’d out of sight and swiftly shrunk away,
And straight I called unto mind that it was Christmas day.
What can I say? Besides this poem I always have to listen to the following recording around this time of year. It seems to fit my mood.