First, I wish you and your family a Merry Christmas (and Happy New Year) on behalf of myself and the Vintality family. I’ll be taking a couple of weeks off from this letter and I hope you too take time to enjoy loved ones, to slow down and disconnect. Whatever your Christmas looks like, good tidings to you and your family!
Christmas, especially with snow, reminds me of Narnia.
“It is winter in Narnia,” said Mr. Tumnus, “and has been for ever so long…. always winter, but never Christmas.”
How awful indeed!
There’s real wisdom there – and not just for children. It’s easy for me to see how Christmas has become “always winter”, especially now: the constant busyness, the stress, the debt, the rush rush rush rush. And now, the forced disconnect and isolation.
Always winter but never Christmas. I hear you, Mr. Lewis.
But more than the land of Narnia, I think of The Lord of the Rings.
Tolkien, more than C.S. Lewis, understood that in our world there is, to use Lewis’ own words: “a deep magic”.
Specifically what Tolkien meant is hard to define (as all true wisdom is).
He meant something that goes back through the mists of time. It is not a scientific magic, like you find in Harry Potter, controllable and measurable. It comes from myth and prehistory because it is part of our story before we could write a story. These myths are the ancient tales, the foundations on which he built his elves and orcs and hobbits. These were not peoples spun from whole cloth but threads lovingly pulled from ancient language and stories.
But, as is often the case, a hobbit says it best:
“If there is any magic about it, it’s right down deep, where I can’t lay my hands on it, in a manner of speaking.” (Samwise Gamgee)
And this is why I think of Tolkien on Christmas.
For all our consumerism and bustle, in Christmas there is deep magic beyond our rational understanding. It is not grand, it is not definable. In the gathering, the celebrating, the generosity, love and joy, is something we oft forget.
I don’t have any more words for it than that. I just wish to remind you of this magic that exists and is, perhaps, a little closer during Christmas. It is not bombastic, gaudy, or powerful. This is something Tolkien understood – his characters of real power were not kings and dragons but hobbits, a Tom Bombadil, a farmer.
“It no longer surprised them; but [Tom Bombadil] made no secret that he owed his recent knowledge to Farmer Maggot, whom he seemed to regard as a person of more importance than they had imagined. ‘There’s earth under his old feet, and clay on his fingers; wisdom in his bones, and both his eyes are open.”
This is my wish for you (and for me). Make space for the deep magic and for its wisdom. It is hard to be separated from family and friends, but perhaps in that is a blessing as well. An opportunity – perhaps to open a book and enter its magical world.
It seems appropriate I give the last word to another hobbit, aptly named Merry:
“It is best to love first what you are fitted to love, I suppose: you must start somewhere and have some roots.”