I’m leafing through a file of old Christmas stories with a view to gathering them into a collection. For three decades I’ve written a new Christmas story every year to give out to friends as a greeting card. A tradition that pre-dates the internet, it’s been one way to get instantly published. We also host an annual party on Christmas Adam (if you’re not familiar with that term, read “Yabba-ka-doodles!”) at which I read my latest story aloud. So I’ve not only had my own publishing house but a radio station as well.
All at once, as I look through the file, my eye falls on an unfamiliar title: “Honorable Pigeon.” Hm. I don’t remember writing this one. It consists of five pages of yellow newsprint, the kind I used in my early days as a writer. Moreover, it’s a typescript. Let me repeat that word: typescript. Composed on a typewriter. One of those ancient clackety contraptions that’s like a can of dry alphabet soup jury-rigged to a keyboard. That’s how old this story is.
I can hardly wait to read it—and lo and behold, it’s pretty good! By the second page I’m really hooked. It’s a few days before Christmas and a tense dialogue is taking place between a fervent Muslim and a nominal Christian. The Christian is getting his clock cleaned. He’s left speechless, shaken, deeply perplexed.
The dialogue ends; there’s one more paragraph; and then …
That’s it. After five pages the story drops off a cliff. I never completed it, nor did I make any notes about possible endings. How could I have left this thing hanging? It cries out to be finished.
For the rest of that day I’m a man in another world: the world of Nat and Midge and Bashir and their unfolding story. The world of fiction. And the next day I sit down and write the ending.
That’s how my 2011 Christmas story happened….
Christmas, I confess, is my favorite time of year. Like a comet returning annually to the earth, heaven draws near in December, just as it did for the magi and the shepherds who both witnessed celestial prodigies. As Shakespeare wrote in the only significant reference to Christmas in all of his plays—
Some say that ever ‘gainst that season comes
Wherein our Saviour’s birth is celebrated,
The bird of dawning singeth all night long;
And then, they say, no spirit can walk abroad;
The nights are wholesome; then no planets strike,
No fairy takes, nor witch hath power to charm,
so hallowed and so gracious is the time.
(Hamlet, Act I)
At Christmas we celebrate the central truth of Christianity: that God has deigned and dared to descend and dwell among us, even as a baby. The Incarnation: this is the great unthinkable thing. It is the one belief that most clearly defines our faith, the thing unbelievers cannot accept, that boggles and outrages the secular mind. The idea of worshipping a human being!
My goal in writing Christmas stories is to incarnate something of this gospel in fiction. My hope is that through these tales a ray or two of the Great Light may somehow pierce the world’s darkness, just as it does my own heart year after year.
So here they are, my twenty-one small lights.
~Excerpt from the Preface to Twenty-One Candles, coming Oct 15, 2014
photo credit: archer10 (Dennis)