This is the poem I was invited to write for the Macmillan carol concert held at Leeds Minster on 18 December 2013. I’ll leave it up here over the festive season. If you would like to donate to Macmillan, you can do so here.
In the rush and the push of shopping and preparation,
Just stop occasionally and think of what this celebration
Is really all about. And I don’t just mean religion,
Because the origin of marking solstice goes back
To Neolithic times – so this is not just something mythical.
In fact, it’s astronomical, both in significance and the
Way the planets dance around the sun.
This festival is not by chance; as the sun sets in the west
Around the twenty-first, our world is at its darkest point,
The earth’s trajectory about to be reversed.
Hectic festivities mark the sun’s decline,
Yet winter cold and murk can feel the worst of times.
Darkness can take many forms – it’s not just physical,
It can be political or fiscal, universal or personal;
It can be self-inflicted and predictable, or take us
Completely by surprise, hit us right between the eyes…
No-one can ever tell; darkness can be utter hell.
Yet there are universal rules that will apply:
First, we never know our darkest point until it’s passed,
Until at last we sense a corner has been turned
And some small ray of hope shines through the gloom.
Second, if our darkness makes us feel entombed
Then we together have to find that light,
No matter how we might conceive that it could be –
Because light can mean whatever sets us free.
So all those coloured bulbs outside –
Santas, reindeer, snowmen, even owls * –
Illuminating gloomy winter nights
Are also a symbolic light reminding us how
Melancholic times will end one day. So I say this:
Gaze on those bright lights – the reds, the greens, the blues,
Discern what it could be that they might mean for you.
This time of year, we celebrate; but many yearn
To see the spring – well, here’s the thing:
Remember, when those Christmas lights come down at last,
The world has turned – the darkest moment of the year