‘And is it true, and is it true,/This most tremendous tale of all…’ run lines from a John Betjeman poem on the Nativity. To which I suspect that many these days will, like me, answer well, no, probably not, at least not in the sense that it did actually happen and happen in that way, which is our preferred definition of ‘true’. Yet we will be happy to concede ‘true’ in the sense of being a good story, reflecting some of humanity’s deepest hopes and desires, and powerful enough to have resonated down the ages.
I’m not sure how far in this week’s poem by U.A.Fanthorpe the author means to go along with the more literal aspects of the Christmas story, but it’s an entertaining take on the tale and it does for me go some way to capturing the true wonder at the heart of the Nativity which remains even when one strips away such mythic accretions as shepherds and angels, stars and wise men, and which should surely be something that those of all faiths and none can celebrate equally: I mean the sheer miracle of any human birth, this fragile chance to be alive on a green planet orbiting a vast ball of fire in the void.
My thanks to my followers for all their comments and encouragement over the year, and may they feel in whatever way seems right to them the warmth of this ancient glow at the heart of midwinter.
This was the moment when Before
Turned into After, and the future’s
Uninvented timekeepers presented arms.
This was the moment when nothing
Happened. Only dull peace
Sprawled boringly over the earth.
This was the moment when even energetic Romans
Could find nothing better to do
Than counting heads in remote provinces.
And this was the moment
When a few farm workers and three
Members of an obscure Persian sect
Walked haphazard by starlight straight
Into the kingdom of Heaven.