This morning, Michaela and Emily are off to do a pottery workshop for a medical practice over on the other side of Cowal, the lovely place in which were are privileged to live. It was booked as an alternative to a Christmas party, and Emily went off singing carols, declaring herself ‘feeling all Christmassy’.
I promised that this advent journey would be primarily about hope and I intend to stick with this promise. But hope is born in the most unlikely places. How about Britain, in 2021? The Britain of coronavirus, Brexit, unholy hostility fostered by people in power towards the weak and broken? Where do we even start to look for hope, when our news outlets and social media bombards us with ever more extreme versions of the negativity we have already been consuming?
It is everywhere, when we choose to look for it…
…but much like it was two thousand years ago, it is a very different kind of Messiah that we will encounter from the one that was expected. He will not come as a superhero, or a movie star, or a charasmatic game changing politician. He will have no fanfare, no three-point sermons or fancy image managed by a team of consultants.
He will be where the weak and broken are. He will be listening to their conversations, taking a sip from a circulated can of special brew and the odd drag from the stubs gathered from the gutter. He will weep with those who are weeping and laugh out loud with those who have also noticed the absurdities of modern life. He will see each small acts of kindness and quietly flush with pride.
I wrote a new version of my favourite carol last Christmas. A few days later I overheard my son singing it and it broke me open. Here it is, full of humanity. Full of hope.
What can I give him, wealthy as I am?
Does he need an i-phone, or a well-aged Parma ham?
Should I bring him trainers, a pair of brand-new jeans?
Or Halo for the X-box (whatever the hell that means)
In a tower block in Camden, a woman breaks her heart
Her credit score is hopeless, her marriage fell apart
Her cupboards all lie empty, her clothes are wafer thin
Her kids can thank the food bank for turkey from a tin
If I were a kind man, I would bring good cheer
I would house the homeless, if for only once a year
I’d buy my cards from Oxfam, for virtue is no sin
I’d send some Christmas pudding to poor old Tiny Tim
In the bleak midwinter, frosty winds still moan
And Mr Wilson’s waited ages to get the council on the phone
He’s worried cos his boiler has given up the ghost
And since Mabel got dementia, she feels cold more than most
If I were a wise man, I would do my part
I’d sell that gold and incense and invest it for a start
In gilt-edged annuities and solid pension schemes
For without good fiscal planning, what can ever be redeemed?
In a lock-up by the roadside a bastard-child is born
To another teenage mother whose future looks forlorn
A host of heavenly angels up high in star-strewn sky
Sing blue-scale hallelujahs as lorries thunder by