Two planes fly across the night sky, their contrails form glistening parallel lines -like a pair of skis in wine dark snow.
I stand in my yard below, breath billowing, watching them fly. It’s Christmas Eve. I’m taking some air after ten hours in the kitchen. As the planes fly past Orion’s Belt I think about all the people sitting in the seats up there and suddenly I’m hoping -praying- that they’re all flying toward love.
In my mind’s eye I picture gifts delicately squished into carry-on luggage, cars filled with loved ones waiting outside the arrivals terminal and pleasant discussions with strangers in the next seat that end with a “Merry Christmas” as everyone disembarks.
Around me I can see the lights on in my neighbours’ houses. Some of them have trees glinting in the windows. All of them radiate warmth. This is an amazing time of year. Out of this miraculous tumble-down soup comes a genuine -and exceedingly rare- message of joy, companionship and sincere well-wishing toward hairless apes everywhere.
And I don’t care what the Pope says about “glitter”. (Might want to take off the sparkly gold muumuu before lamenting all things garish.) A distracted civilisation needs a loud, garish megaphone. If it takes a few fairy lights to jolt people into occasionally prioritising love and goodwill then it’s a legitimate magical prop as far as I’m concerned.
Inside I can see the tealights clustered along the kitchen benches, great piles of Harrod’s Christmas crackers on the table waiting to be exploded, champagne bubbling away in a row of flutes. And most importantly I can see loved ones piling in from the front room and taking their seats at the table.
There is something about this moment, despite the relative novelty of some of its component parts, that feels timeless. That feels universal. Without being able to describe exactly how, I know that billions of people on the planet are experiencing the same sensation as me this weekend just as I know countless millions before have.
Here is the Christmas Prayer of Saint Ephraim the Syrian. It’s from the fourth century. Sound familiar?
The feast day of your birth resembles You, Lord
Because it brings joy to all humanity.
Old people and infants alike enjoy your day.
Your day is celebrated
from generation to generation.
Kings and emperors may pass away,
And the festivals to commemorate them soon lapse.
But your festival
will be remembered until the end of time.
Your day is a means and a pledge of peace.
At Your birth heaven and earth were reconciled,
Since you came from heaven to earth on that day
You forgave our sins and wiped away our guilt.
You gave us so many gifts on the day of your birth:
A treasure chest of spiritual medicines for the sick;
Spiritual light for the blind;
The cup of salvation for the thirsty;
The bread of life for the hungry.
In the winter when trees are bare,
You give us the most succulent spiritual fruit.
In the frost when the earth is barren,
You bring new hope to our souls.
In December when seeds are hidden in the soil,
The staff of life springs forth from the virgin womb
I open the door and return to the kitchen.
Merry Christmas everyone.