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Readings: Christmas

Before you bid, for Christmas sake,
Your guest to sit at meat,
Oh please to save a little cake
For them that have no treat.

Before you go down party dressed
In silver gown or gold,
Oh please to send a little vest
To them that still go cold.

Before you give your girl or boy
Gay gifts to be undone,
Oh please to spare a little toy
To them that will have none.

Before you gather round the tree
To dance the day about,
Oh please to give a little glee
To them that go without.

Eleanor Farjeon, For Them


Love was there at Christmas
Star and angels were the sign.
Love is here at Christmas
Love all lovely, love divine.

Peace shall be our icon,
Peace be yours and peace be mine,
Peace and love and all of us
Love with Peace in gift and sign.

Was it a fancy bred of vagrant guess,
Or well remembered fact-that He was born
When half the world was wintry and forlorn,
In Nature's utmost season of distress?
And did the simple earth indeed confess
Its destitution and its craving need,
Wearing the white and penitential weed,
Meet symbol of judicial barrenness?
So be it: for truth is ever so,
That when the winter of the soul is bare,
The seed of heaven at first begins to grow,
Keeping abroad in desert of despair.

H. Coleridge


A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.
And the camels galled, sore-footed, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times when we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
And running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities dirty and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.

Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wineskins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arrived at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you may say) satisfactory.

All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.

The Journey of the Magi, T. S. Eliot, used in Rosslyn Hill Unitarian Church December 2002