It’s that time of year…

Two days before Christmas, two days after the Winter Solstice. For Christians, the new order begins with the birth of their Redeemer. For everyone in the Northern Hemisphere, a new year begins on the day our part of the world begins slowly tipping back toward the sun, which, in the driest and most technical of terms, is the fountain of our energy.

Birth.

Re-birth.

Lancelot Andrewes, the man most responsible for translating the King James Version of the Bible, spent most of his time preaching to and flattering King James. His best-known sermon, for Christmas Day, 1622, includes these lines.

A cold coming they had of it at this time of the year, just the worst time of the year to take a journey, and specially a long journey. The ways deep, the weather sharp, the days short, the sun farthest off, in solstitio brumali, the very dead of winter.

You may recognize them from their use, three hundred years later, by T S Eliot, to begin his poem “The Journey of the Magi.”

A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a Journey, and such a long journey:
The way deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.

The very dead of winter.

A perfect image, and wonderfully told. Not surprising, as it came from the man who fathered what is still the most interesting and poetic version of the Bible. (I do not suggest it is the most dependable translation of original texts.)

What is surprising is that these lines come so far into the sermon. About twenty minutes in, by my reckoning — twenty minutes of pompous and orotund blathering, utterly unlike the beauty and precision of language common in KJV. But after all, he was preaching to the King that day.

All my blathering here is to build on that image in the first paragraph: our part of the earth tipping back toward the sun. That is what I celebrate now. It is made more poignant and at the same time more real because that re-birth, that resurgence of energy, is not immediate. We have most of winter yet to endure before we begin to appreciate — to recognize the full worth of — the warmth, the energy, the resurgent life.

It is a promise.

Happy New Year.

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