Advent: 23 December

Tracy Niven
Saturday 23 December 2023


Yesterday was the last working day of the University this year.  Today is the first day of the holidays!  Rarely has our community felt more in need of rest, recuperation and refreshment – perhaps that is true of the world as a whole.  A Christian minister’s rest usually comes after Christmas Day, but in 2013 I did experience Christmas without working – in Ethiopia.  The Ethiopian Orthodox Church celebrates Christmas on the night of 6-7 January.  We spent it in Lalibela, joining perhaps 30,000 pilgrims who had walked across the country to be there.  It is a town of the most extraordinary churches, not built but hewn out of the rock.  We found a perch looking down into one of these churches, and saw part of the Christmas procession – hundreds of priests dressed in white, walking, dancing, chanting, ringing small cymbal-like instruments called a senasel or sistrum.  Meanwhile the people squeezed in wherever they could, in what I can best describe as a reverent midnight picnic atmosphere – also dressed in white, and joining in with singing and ululation.  Today’s picture tries to capture something of that atmosphere:

The haiku today recognises Christmas traditions in worship – but also in rituals which are much broader than organised religion, around family and friendship, such as a University shutting down to allow students and staff to breathe, to lay work down, and to be reinvigorated.

Inherited rites
feasting, embracing, resting
hope to fire the year


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