Monday, 29 November 2010

Why you should get drunk, eat as many mince pies as you can and snog someone at your office party...

I just read reallyquitetired’s post “adventageous” and the worthy sentiment of a Lenten approach to the season of goodwill. He’s right of course, Christians celebrated a good 1500 years of fasting and abstinence before our jolly pre-Christmas Christmas. And even in our judgement-averse culture RQT’s call for justice must strike some harmonic chord.

What I liked about RQT’s post and paradoxically I like about our silly commercial Advent is that both have a lovely sense of hope about them. Commercial Advent does move people and make them smile and laugh and get drunk with their friends, because for a couple of weeks of the year people do sometimes manage to believe however briefly that love-actually-does-make-the-world-go-round, or some approximately trite but genuinely warm notion.

Now before the DARK-LEFT-LIBERAL-VOICE inside your head starts quoting statistics about people dying of cold, feeling murderous pressure to keep up with the Jones’ kids or whatever, Christmas will always leave some people out in the stable or the cave. The way to deal with this, however, is not to ban feasting.

And if RQT wants to celebrate JL’s gut-churning, if optimistic, “War is Over” as an Advent Hymn (and PLEASE PLEASE GOD can we NOT have Matt Curdle singing that in a special Xmas X-Factor) then he’s clearly already hit a bit of the cheap festive spirits.

But WHAT IF actually Coca-cola and the season of office parties have made a very suitable theological innovation?

Because all that stuff about judgement was rather nasty anyway and after a couple of thousand years I think we can stop taking the Jesus-is-coming-look-busy motif so seriously.

To be a little cryptic, I think the truth is that we had the experience but missed the meaning. Christmas happened and we live in the mess of a world at war with itself, a vast wasteland of half-finished efforts to recapture dreams and shadows of stories that elude us.

In order to look hopefully-forward we need to look back for some fragments to shore against our ruins.

So we should feast through Advent, the beginning of the Christian year and allow ourselves what joy and magic we can. Because that secular feast, cutting in just after the rousing “Fiiiiiiiiiiiiiyyyve Goooooooooooowwwllllllld Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiingssssszzz”, will snatch us back to a freezing Narnian winter, national unrest and the hardship of paying for gifts and hospitality we couldn’t afford.

Here’s to feast and then fast, and 4 weeks of avoiding the living-in-time that prematurely batters us to death:

Fragment of an Argument about the Feast

How shall we behave the day after the feast?
If there is enough elation to recall at least

There's little enough disappointment : so act
As if things were usual, which they are in fact.

A little flat perhaps a little lacking
In fire in dramatic cadences we sing

'Our streets are not paved with gold and never were'
As best we can as consolation for a threadbare

Everything it seems at times is our complaint
Complaining it seems falls everywhere like rain

And great's the tension to be merely quaint
To recreate a golden age and to refrain

From further effort - and there I would have loved
And there I did - superbly conscious not unmoved

No moved but reconciled to some sort of end :
'The historical drama is over and

Only the epilogue remains though it may
As with Ibsen be drawn out into five acts.'

How shall we behave the day after the feast?
If there's no elation to recall at least

There's little enough disappointment : so act
As if things were usual, which they are in fact.

- John Riley, Selected Poems (Manchester: Carcanet, 1995)

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