SLOW food, slow television, slow cities — the frantic pace of life in the developed world has spawned a self-conscious movement to concentrate more on pleasures as they unfold, instead of allowing them to whizz by. The concept of a slow Christmas might well prompt derision from many of our readers: clergy with multiple services to organise, parents with small children, newspaper staff with a double issue to produce . . . And yet all will acknowledge that the wonder of Christmas can best be grasped in moments of stillness and reflection.
The adult Christ was never particularly bothered about quick apprehension, allowing his stories to burn slowly into the consciences of his listeners — or not. And so it is with the story of the infant Christ. We envy small children their easy access to delight, but we ought, too, to envy older people, who have had a lifetime to contemplate the mysteries of the incarnation. Herein lies the value of repetition and tradition: familiarity with the Christmas story should never engender boredom, but add fresh insights and understanding with each passing year. Such insights might simply lead to a realisation of how little we understand, but this in itself is a component of wonder. This is not a call to readers to cudgel their brains to seek the “real” meaning of Christmas. Instead, we counsel the opposite: to stand back a little from the stable door and allow the manifestation of God’s love — Christ’s first miracle, himself incarnate — to make itself known once again.