November has been so full of the golden leaves of autumn. It has been quite breathtaking. You could never capture such colours with a camera alone. You seem to be immersed in the colour; surrounding you on all sides. And when the sun comes from behind a cloud the leaves catch fire! Seasons never fail to move me and as we enter into the long nights and gloomy days of December, slipping a little reluctantly into the deeper parts of winter, it is worth remembering that. Spring seems to be an age away and the spirits can flag and our energies wane. Sometimes you suspect that deeply written into our genes is the inclination to hibernate and sleep away the darkness.
I wonder what this all must have felt like to ancient Britons at the dawn of history? I wonder about the cold of draughty round houses, and the drastic narrowing down of diet and drink. I wonder with a great deal of relief for central heating and supermarkets and electric light! It is no wonder, however, that in their ancient beliefs, seasons played such an important part and in the heart of winter they celebrated the light. Nor is it surprising that the young Christian faith emerging into Roman Briton, latched onto such celebrations, not only because they shared a longing for the spring, but because the annual cycle reminded them of a greater truth still. The cold days that slowly become warmer days, the dark days that gradually brighten, and the austere diets that burst into the plenty and coming of new life; all speak of their experience of Jesus.
We owe the Pagan world a great deal for the feast of Christmas! For that reason, if nothing else, I find it hard to grumble about the modern pagans and their use of the images we as Christians have borrowed. However, while I am grateful, I am sad that the ‘greater truth’ goes unacknowledged. In solidarity with humanity I am content to enjoy the winter feast of light and share a longing for the Spring. But in happiness I want to rejoice that God sent his only son and share that as well. There isn’t a ‘real meaning’ of Christmas, but there are levels of meaning and the deepest level is the most wonderful of all.