And is it true?

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I went into school today. It is still the holiday time but the cleaners are working their way around the buildings. The empty corridors echo to loud Spanish radio stations and the sound of vaccuum cleaners. Those of us who decorated our classroom windows before Christmas (every teacher in primary and just me in secondary… ) expected our efforts to be removed before we return next week. Luckily, I caught my window on camera just before the cleaners moved in.

My “Flight into Egypt” window was done in acrylics, after Giotto. Joseph leading the donkey, and Mary with the child Jesus. It prompts a reflection on the meaning of Christmas, looking back on it from the new year. The cleaners have now done their job and the window painting is gone.

And is it True?
John Betjeman

The bells of waiting Advent ring,
The Tortoise stove is lit again
And lamp-oil light across the night
Has caught the streaks of winter rain
In many a stained-glass window sheen
From Crimson Lake to Hooker’s Green.

The holly in the windy hedge
And round the Manor House the yew
Will soon be stripped to deck the ledge,
The altar, font and arch and pew,
So that villagers can say
‘The Church looks nice’ on Christmas Day.

Provincial public houses blaze
And Corporation tramcars clang,
On lighted tenements I gaze
Where paper decorations hang,
And bunting in the red Town Hall
Says ‘Merry Christmas to you all.’

And London shops on Christmas Eve
Are strung with silver bells and flowers
As hurrying clerks the City leave
To pigeon-haunted classic towers,
And marbled clouds go scudding by
The many-steepled London sky.

And girls in slacks remember Dad,
And oafish louts remember Mum,
And sleepless children’s hearts are glad,
And Christmas morning bells say ‘Come!’
Even to shining ones who dwell
Safe in the Dorchester Hotel.

And is it true? and is it true?
The most tremendous tale of all,
Seen in a stained-glass window’s hue,
A Baby in an ox’s stall?
The Maker of the stars and sea
Become a Child on earth for me?

And is it true? For if it is,
No loving fingers tying strings
Around those tissued fripperies,
The sweet and silly Christmas things,
Bath salts and inexpensive scent
And hideous tie so kindly meant,

No love that in a family dwells,
No carolling in frosty air,
Nor all the steeple-shaking bells
Can with this single Truth compare –
That God was Man in Palestine
And lives to-day in Bread and Wine.

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About Gareth Thomas

A fairly mixed career starting as an aircraft technician and later Franciscan friar eventually led into secondary school teaching. I settled in Spain where I teach Geography part-time and spend the rest of my time looking after the needs of four donkeys in a remote location in the mountains in the Costa Blanca. I have three blogs: a geography blog and a donkey blog begun in 2015, plus an old donkey blog which ran from 2010 to 2015.
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5 Responses to And is it true?

  1. Kathy says:

    Lovely!

  2. Karin says:

    Lovely.

  3. Anonymous says:

    And is it true?….
    That Emmanuel is God-with-us..
    Believe it to be true, yes, truer than anything else, and to be found this day in Bread and Wine
    “Whoever eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood has eternal life…..and lives in Me and I live in him. ..whoever eats Me will live because of Me…” John 6:56

    Merci infiniment cher Frere Lapin pour tes paroles – which invites us to listen to the Word, and to enter into HIm.
    Cerise!

  4. Frere Rabit says:

    Good to hear from you, Cherry and thank you for your comments. Happy new year to you, Kathy and Karin, and to all readers.

    It is sometimes difficult to know how many active readers this blog has, as many chance upon it from other sites, and quite often via YouTube from Morris’s famous singing video! They take a peek at the blog then disappear again.

    Comments are always a way of seeing how many people are still regularly reading the blog. Naturally, the peak months in the life of the blog were during the time when the foals were born and their progress during year in which they grew up into yearlings. Now they are nearly adults and the blog has lost the obvious appeal of the fluffy foals.

  5. Kathy says:

    Bunny, they are still appealing, and the way they manage to regularly get one over on you is so funny. Keep on blogging, I’ll keep reading.

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