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The Language of Christmas

The Language of Christmas
Michael Jinkins


Christmas doesn’t speak in prose. Not fluently, at least. It speaks in music and lyrics and poetry. How could it be otherwise? Christmas touches the face of eternity with the hands of an infant.

Upon getting the news from Gabriel that God intended to make her the mother of the messiah, a teenaged girl sang a song most poets would give anything to match.

At the first Christmas, angels sang. And we’ve been trying to compete with that choir ever since.

When mystery brushes past mere humans, prose just won’t do. That’s why we love our carols. Why we love Auden’s doleful festival of promise confirming that we live “in the time being.” Why we put up with the worst doggerel imaginable, just to hear a rhyme, a meter even poorly executed.

We yearn for the best language we can put on, our Christmas finery, our fancy dress and formals rolled into one. We want tinsel in our nouns, sparkling lights flashing like the Manning’s “shook foil” in every verb. We want Frost to remind us that the greatest risk God can take is the human plunge. We want sugar plums dancing as sheep graze upon Palestinian hills and a wintry land that Christmas forgot to receive its lion king.

And we won’t go until we get some, no we won’t go until we get some.

So today of all days, let’s unpack the carols and tune up the untuned and let the tone deaf sing. And those who can’t sing can recite their favorite bit of Christmas verse. Because angels and children rule the day, and we all long to hear Christmas speak in her native tongue.

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