12 December 2013

A Christmas carol of sorts

I grew up listening to Channel 2 of the English Services of what was then called Radio Ceylon.  We didn’t have a radio at home, so it was only during school holidays spent in Kurunegala, with my maternal grandparents that I heard English songs.  That too, second hand; my aunts tuned in.  And this, in the evening.  
The radio belonged to my grandfather. There was early morning pirith which was part of my waking up.  There was news at the particular hour.  There was an hour, if I remember right, of children’s songs.  English songs came late in the day, after play-houses and cricket.  Those December evenings were when I first heard Christmas Carols.  They are part of my earliest memories and naturally listening to them even now sparks off memories.  
Christmas is some days away but the English stations have already started playing ‘christmassy’ songs, classics as well as recent compositions.  They take me back to a place that is not the place of childhood and holidays, a once full house of light and love now empty and forlorn, and it comes alive again.  I am not ungrateful, but that straying into the lands of nostalgia comes with a price: Christmas Marketing. 
I am no Christian and I’ve read enough to know how doctrines get appropriated by organizations and how organizations are moved to facilitate profit-making. I know that Jesus of Nazareth was not born on the 25th day of December.  Nothing of this takes away from the life and word of Jesus.  Christmas carols did not and do not detract either.  The commercials do.  Jesus was not a peddler of small mercies. He was not about this sale and that sale or chances to win this or that in a grand draw if you bought this or that, all in the name of Christmas cheer. 
Nothing wrong with festivity of course, and as a much adored, alert and perceptive aunty of mine pointed out to me two years ago it is not that those who splurge with cheer are not given to giving.  Still. Something’s missing, I’ve always felt, in the month of Christmas and it’s not my grandparents, the ancestral home and holidays remembered to be more splendid that they probably were.   A couple of days she sent me a short note.  It won’t harm to meditate on the words she shared, whether one is a Christian or not, whether one purchases Christmas commerciality or not.  This is what I received.
‘I picked up the Advent Magazine from my little church on Sunday. Someone had submitted the following verse.
I stood somewhere afar off and watched the busy throng
The streets were full of people, Yule-tide had begun
the shops were gaily lighted, the kids were buying toys
The adults doing their shopping with gifts for girls and boys.
The pubs are whole day open the barrels running dry
some are in their kitchens baking Christmas pie
The houses decorated with balloons, gifts and trees
And some are serving visitors with biscuits cakes and teas.
The churches too are crowded, the choirs singing loud
Santa's at the parties, swinging with the crowd......
But somewhere in the shadows, my Saviour lonely stands
With pity in His gentle eyes and nail prints in His hands.
                                                                                     ( Charmaine Lisk)

A Christmas carol, this, and one not easy to forget.  Took me back to those holidays, Radio Ceylon and a time that can return if only we open our hearts to let it all in, ‘Looking to the Savior’ included.



sajic said...

Mercies dont have to be big, Malinda. The important thing is to recognise them-small or big- when they do arrive; which is quite often although we dont have the eyes to see.
We are exhorted to count our blessings-you'd be amazed if you do, the list is never-ending.