Sunday, December 23, 2007

Parting Gift

I have missed the last several days, wearing sackcloth and ashes for my dear, departed Dell, so I now find myself on December 23 not having posted much of what I had planned to write.

With Christmas beginning tomorrow (and with the conspicuous lack of time-sucking technology) I have been visited many times by the Ghost of Christmas Past. Fortunately for me, my sister's posts have said much of what was on my mind, so anything I put up might have been redundant.

I don't know where I first heard the......legend? superstition?..... of the animals in every stable bowing as the Eve turns to the Day. I must have been quite young - under ten - because I can remember lying in my attic bedroom in the dead of night, staring up at the sloping ceiling and trying to think if there were any neighbourhood livestock I could sneak up on, to see them kneel to Baby Jesus.

It doesn't seem to be a commonly-known story: I'm not sure I've ever met anyone else who had heard of it. Every Christmas Eve, though, I think of it without fail. It's a fond memory, for me, with the persistent magic of childish uncertainty.

Then, this past fall, I bought a book of Christmas poems for my daughter. It was an emotional read anyway, between the stocking-in-the-dark poem and the one with the line reading "and children pace the crumping snow, to taste their granny's cake again", and the e.e. cummings one that ends with
"and my little sister and i will take hands
and looking up at our beautiful tree
we'll dance and sing
'Noel Noel'".

Then I idly turned a page, saw the next poem, and suddenly..... I was ten again, lying in the dark of a steadily falling night, wishing there was a barn handy so I could check and see. I couldn't stop the tears. I felt a rushing flood of wonder and longing just like the one I had felt as a child, and a faith restored, fiercely, in unseen power.

So I leave you with this poem, for me the most moving of all, written, amazingly, by my favourite author.

A Happy Christmas to you, my dear friends.

The Oxen

Christmas Eve, and twelve of the clock.
"Now they are all on their knees,"
An elder said as we sat in a flock
By the embers in hearthside ease.

We pictured the meek mild creatures where
They dwelt in their strawy pen
Nor did it occur to one of us there
To doubt they were kneeling then.

So fair a fancy few would weave
In these years! Yet, I feel,
If someone said on Christmas Eve,
"Come; see the oxen kneel

"In the lonely barton by yonder coomb
Our childhood used to know,"
I should go with him in the gloom,
Hoping it might be so.

-Thomas Hardy


Gwen said...

Oh, how lovely! I am finding this Christmas especially nostalgic, for whatever reason.

Call me when you can.

Tabatha said...

I am not sure exactly where legend came into existence but I know that it the Nativity Icons have the ox and the donkey in them because of Isaiah 1:3 "The ox knows his owner, and the donkey his master's crib"

So it probably comes from that.

*takes off knowitall hat*

Merry Christmas.

clumsy ox said...

Missing you guys this Christmas... Next year we need to have a reunion for Christmas: maybe we can all descend in a mob on Gwen's?

I'll try and remember to bow at midnight, just for you.

karen said...

Beautiful poem by one of my favoirites too, Shan...

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful Christmas thought!


Penny said...

It's a moving tale: and the nostalgic thoughts as well. How can it be Christmas unless we have the LP of "A Christmas Carol" at some point?

uberstrickenfrau said...

May Father Christmas fill your stocking with your hearts desire!!!!

knititch said...

merry christmas, again. thanks for the lovely cards and i am happy that your little girl enjoyed the gl├Ždelig jul. so much fun to get a card in return with a little drawing.

clumsy ox said...

Well, I may only be an ox in name, but I made sure to kneel at midnight for you.

Qwarkus said...

Reading that poem gave me goosebumps, I'd forgotten it, but remember reading it many, many moons ago now.
Hope your Christmas was wonderful, and hope you have a great New Year too.

joni said...

how wonderful....

Merry Christmas ..