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Faith Comment published in the Petersfield Post

11 December 2013: Jane de Halpert, St Laurence's Catholic Church

Some Festive Thoughts

For a Christian, Advent marks four weeks of preparatory reflection before the feast of Christmas. General preparation for the festive season, however, seems to get earlier every year. It was interesting to note that a consensus of a group of shoppers, interviewed for this paper at the start of November, indicated that most of us think the build up to Christmas has got out of hand. At times it is easy to feel that one is sinking in a sea of enforced jollity.

Christmas signifies differing things, depending on one's beliefs and viewpoint, but the words 'traditional', 'magical' and 'a family time' are what many regard as the positive elements. Christmas Carol Services are an important component of the Christmas season and present the opportunity for a rousing communal sing song.

'In the Bleak Midwinter' presents, perhaps, a contrast to the many carols with joyful, stirring choruses. Christina Rossetti wrote this as a poem in 1872 in response to a request from an American magazine 'Scribner's Monthly'. This poem became a Christmas carol, first included in the English Hymnal of 1906. It is now usually sung to the haunting and sombre melody composed by Harold Darke. With its portrayal of a stark wintry landscape and emphasis on the simplicity of Christ's birth, it seems to counterbalance the overt festive commercialism of the Christmas season.

The Queen ended her 2012 Christmas Broadcast with a reflection on this carol. The last verse begins with the question 'What can I give him, poor as I am?' which the final line answers with the simple statement 'yet what I can I give him: Give my heart'. Amidst the frenzied preparation of the festive season it is, perhaps, a gentle reminder of where our priorities should lie.

This article was submitted for publication in the Petersfield Post on 11 December; it is possible that it was published earlier or may be published later.

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