“’Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse...”
As a child I can remember sitting by the hearth, a roaring fire dancing upon the grate, warming my backside. My mother sat beside me, her animated voice filling the room with Clement Clarke Moore’s story. To a young lad, it was a vibrant and real encounter, hearing this story filled with anticipation and wonder. My imagination ran wild with expectant delight, as the mesmerizing prose wove its magic upon my soul. It was an enchanting tradition that still echoes within my heart and mind.
There was another tradition that was part of the hearthside ritual. My mother had a brass bucket of coal beside the fireplace. The chunks of coal were from the rail yard pile, left over from the days of steam. Each Christmas Eve, my mother would light a fire and burn a piece of coal. Throughout the year no other fire was so adorned. It was a special part of the Christmas routine that added to the mystique of the evening. Over nine years of life in Manor Park, the bucket of coal slowly disappeared. When the last piece of coal was placed within the flames, it signaled change.
After this last Christmas in Manor Park the story was read no longer. No longer did I snuggle beside my mother at the hearth. Though there were many more fires, there were none with the symbolic coal, or the classic Moore reading. An era had passed, life had matured, change had come upon us and we moved on. It was a seismic shift, yet with new opportunities – a future ringed with tradition, relational living, imagination and spirit – thestuff of life that could animate and breathe.
The rhythmic story lines of the birth of Jesus, and traditions of Christmas, likewise change and mature as we evolve and journey as pilgrims of faith…and so they should. Yet, still within the recesses of the heart are those patterns held from early days, that birthed imagination, sparked the drama while burning brightly upon the hearth of our lives, inspiring our longings while propelling us onwards. It just doesn’t get any better…
“…And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,
HAPPY CHRISTMAS TO ALL, AND TO ALL A GOOD-NIGHT!”