After Christmas (from "For the Time Being")
Well, so that is that. Now we must dismantle the tree,
Putting the decorations back into their cardboard boxes –
Some have got broken – and carrying them up to the attic.
The holly and the mistletoe must be taken down and burnt,
And the children got ready for school. There are enough
Left-overs to do, warmed-up, for the rest of the week –
Not that we have much appetite, having drunk such a lot,
Stayed up so late, attempted – quite unsuccessfully –
To love all of our relatives, and in general
Grossly overestimated our powers. Once again
As in previous years we have seen the actual Vision and failed
To do more than entertain it as an agreeable
Possibility, once again we have sent Him away,
Begging though to remain His disobedient servant,
The promising child who cannot keep His word for long.
– W.H. Auden
Why is it so hard to catch and hold that Vision throughout the year, when it's so strong, so clear, for the few weeks surrounding Christmas? Whatever your personal version is, it likely involves peace, understanding and tolerance, fellowship, love. These are not ephemeral qualities, not if we practice them, use them, put them on like new shoes and wear them until they are comfortable enough to slip into without a thought. I won't spend another year scraping the leftovers of Christmas Spirit slowly from my plate. I won't wait to pull concern, care, and thoughtfulness from their dusty boxes. This year will be different. This year, hope and grace will not be dismantled.