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December 25, 2004: But to me heard afar

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Noel, Christmas Eve, 1913 *
-- Lyrics by Robert Bridges
-- Music by Lee Holdrige

A frosty Christmas Eve when the stars were shining,
I travell'd forth alone where westward falls the hills.
And from many, many a village, in the darkness of the valley
Distant music reached me, peals of bells were ringing.

Through most of the year, being agnostic is not really something I even think about. My continuing search for faith, in some form or another, is just a part of who I am. Throughout the rest of the year I attend church because it is my sense of community something I was raised with; a place where I have found people who are willing to accept me as I am, doubts and all, because even though they may not understand how I cannot believe, they at least understand that it is a journey that is mine, alone, to make.

Then sped my thoughts to olden times, to that first of Christmas'
When shepherds who were watching heard music in the fields.
And they sat there and they marveled and they knew they could not tell
Whether it were angels, or the bright stars a-singing.

It has been incredibly foggy this year; so much so that coming home at night on any evening is a test in faith, especially as we get closer to our little neighborhood. In the dark and the mist all that is often visible are the lights on the houses, shining for all they are worth through the gloom, as if to try their best to chase it away. This is one of my favorite parts about this season the night and the silence and the lights. Sometimes when I am alone in the car I will open the window to let some of the fog in that crisp smell of clouds in the air all around me. There is magic in fog; there is wonder. At this time of year the fog can make me start to believe in things that there might be fairies lurking under the bushes as I pass by a house, and that mystical creatures might truly exist in the shadows when the fog rolls in.

Of any other weather, fog can make me suspend my belief, even just a little, and I can let my imagination wander. And I wonder about stories myths and legends and how they came to be, and whether they were born at some point by ancient people telling stories of things they could not explain, or were born instead out of imagination, as a way to draw people in to a story that might just have been large enough to not need the embellishment, but which has now become so inexorably entwined with the magic that people firmly believe it to be true.

But to me heard afar, it was starry music
The singing of the angels, the comfort of our Lord
Words of old that come a-traveling, by the riches of the times
And I softly listened, as I stood on the hill
And I softly listened, as I stood on the hill.

Most of the rest of the year I do not question my lack of faith. Most of the time I remain silent during prayers, and I do my best to focus on what is good and right and how it seems the world should be, and I use that as my guiding light. It is at Christmas, however, that I wish that I could somehow find what I am missing. I know that it is not amid the mad rush to the mall, or the greedy clamor for presents, or the tacky decorations on lawns, or the in-your-face Jesus/God mania that is shoved down our throats by sad, close-minded people who always seem to forget that Freedom of Religion applies to everyone, and not just to them.

I do not know if there really is anything out there to believe. I do not know whether some single omnipotent being really sat down and crafted out some huge plan that involved causing bushes to burst into flames when old men climb mountains, or parting seas, or claiming babies as its own offspring/clone/whatever the trinity really is, or sending its hosts to visit a bunch of rather startled shepherds over 2000 years ago. Most of the year I cannot find it in my heart to believe. But at this time of year, driving home in the fog, letting my disbelief be suspended for even a little bit, sometimes, deep inside me, I listen. And I wish.

This has been a Holidailies entry.

* Recorder - my dad
Guitar - a friend
Vocals - me

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