It may seem odd to write a blog post about Christmas during the month of July. Heat waves, bike rides, mosquito bites, and outdoor grilling are not experiences that Americans tend to associate with Christmas. Why should we? But for those who live in the southern hemisphere Christmas goes hand-in-hand with summer events like these, and it is one such southern-hemispherian who induced me to write this out-of-season blog post. (But then again, the incarnation is never out-of-season!)
A few weeks ago I stumbled upon a Christmas poem by Glen Scrivener called, “Christmas in Dark Places.” In it he describes his own personal journey from his native land of Australia to the northern land of England, particularly as it relates to his differing experiences of Christmas celebrations in both countries. As the poem continues though, the concepts of summer and winter broaden to a much larger level. And as with the other poems Glen has written, the point is Christ. May we rejoice in him in these summer months.
It used to be summer when Christmas came round,
Neath tall southern skies, over sun-scorched ground,
With the backyard cricket, the barbies, the beach,
And munching on mangoes to watch the Queen’s Speech.
The slatherings of sunscreen, the glorious glare
And toasting the glow in the warm evening air.
It used to be summer… when I was young.
A golden age in a land far flung.
But there came a point, I crossed a divide,
Went up in the world and summer had died.
December is dark now, the nights close in,
So we huddle together as kith and as kin.
It’s winter now when Christmas rolls round,
We celebrate still though with different surrounds.
We mull the wine and strike the matches,
Light the fires, batten the hatches,
Gather around the warming beam
Of family love or a TV screen.
So safe inside, no place to go,
We toast marshmellows and let it snow.
Our summer’s gone, if you’ve been around,
You’ve felt the fall: life’s run aground.
We’ve gone up in the world, seen summer die.
So what’s our hope? the dark defy?
Stoke the hearth? retreat indoors?
Rug up warm with you and yours?
The shadow reaches even here,
But this is the place for Christmas cheer.
It’s dark, in the Bible, when Christmas is spoken.
Always a bolt from the blue for the broken.
It’s the valley of shadow, the land of the dead,
It’s, “No place in the inn,” so He stoops to the shed.
He’s born to the shameful, bends to the weak,
Becomes the lowly: the God who can’t speak!
And yet, what a Word, this Savior who comes,
Our dismal, abysmal depths He plumbs.
Through crib and then cross, to compass our life.
To carry and conquer – our Brother in strife.
He became what we are: our failures He shouldered,
To bring us to His life: forever enfolded.
He took on our frailty, he took on all-comers,
To turn all our winters to glorious summers.
It’s Christmas now… whatever the weather,
Some soak in the sun, some huddle together.
But fair days or foul, our plight He embraces.
Real Christmas can shine in the darkest of places.
For more from Glen Scrivener, you can visit his website at christthetruth.net.