Cold, cold, cold. The frost nips and the sun shines and it's the very first day of Advent. The run up to Christmas Day; the run up to the birth of sheer goodness and innocence: the birth of very Light of the World. Sceptics and cynics may scoff but I love it. Not only Christians but Pagans celebrate the rebirth of the light each year. And, whilst the Saturnalian aspect is pretty upfront, the Christian part of the festival still calls out to those who want to listen. The birth of the baby down among the animals, the visitation of the Angels and the visit of the Shepherds, followed in Epiphany by the Wise Men with their gifts of frankincense, gold and myrrh is about as precious a story as you can get.
Of course, the early Church stole the festival. We all know Jesus wasn't born on Christmas Day but, at the time the Christiansiers did this, it probably made perfect sense. The remnants of paganism are never far away as we celebrate the middle of winter - for who can ignore the power of Nature? - but the forgiving face of the Christian God is there to be discovered should you wish to find it.
The imperfection of the Christian Church is legion and the latest debacle over women bishops in the Anglican Church does nothing to endear it to secular folks and many within its ranks, myself included, despair at the conservative attitudes of those who fail to understand the rightness of equality. Yet, when I light a candle on cold winter's night and await the birth (symbolic or otherwise) of the child who was born to King, my heart cannot help but sing a merry tune.