One of the things I did today was to get hold of a recording (actually I found three that I liked) of a Christmas carol called O Holy Night, and get them installed on my phone.
Apparently it's a very well-known carol, but I had never heard before it in my life until I caught a trailer on BBC Radio 4 for a programme about this carol and its inspirational significance in the lives of several persons affected by it, among them His Grace the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, and the singer Katie Melua. The programme was in the series Soul Music, and was to be aired on 20th December. I made a point of listening to it.
I was so glad I did. In between the discussions, several versions of this carol by different singers were played, all of them beautiful and uplifting. You did not have to be in any way religious to be profoundly moved not just by the words, but the music that went with it. The way the music jumped to another key after 'Fall on your knees...' was thrilling and shiver-inducing. I imagine that, if hearing this carol sung simply but well in a dark space, it wouldn't be difficult to believe in a heaven full of smiling angels, and a baby come to redeem us all. I thought of survivors, of hope rekindled in ruined cities, all eyes on a single candle, all ears listening to a single clear voice and finding hope and the will to go on.
I am astonished that I have been unaware of this carol for so long. Many very well-known singers have recorded it over the years. It was mere chance that I caught the trailer. Perhaps it was meant to be. I had been busy de-Christmassing Christmas at Melford Hall. Hearing this carol made me think again. Not to embark on a crass spending spree. But to ponder what Christmas really means for the human spirit.
One way or another, we all rely on each other. We all need to co-operate. This is the time of year to examine one's worth, as measured by how many people's lives we affected for the better. How kind and understanding we were. How much of a help and support we really were to the people in our own circle of friends and acquaintances.
I thought about my own efforts, or the lack of them. How 'me, me, me' had I been? Too much so? What might I do about it next year? Even if I did not believe in some Ultimate Judge, it still mattered that I live as if I might be judged.
Happy 2018, everybody.