As well as family, food and drink, Christmas - for me without responsibilities to lead worship and preach - has provided some space for listening, watching and reading.
I've thoroughly enjoyed listening to the 'four' CD's I received. The first, the newly released box-set of the Beethoven Symphonies with Riccardo Chailly and the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra - don't ask how many other sets I've got! Steve Reich's Music for 18 Musicians - beautiful, minimalist, repetitive music, which caused some 'interesting' responses from some family members. Bach Oboe Concertos and Sinfonias, played by Heinz Holliger, who recently turned seventy and still plays with virtuosity and extraordinary musicianship. And Paul Mealor, A Tender Light, which has some hauntingly beautiful songs, performed superbly by Tenebrae.
As for watching, this included 'The Holly and the Ivy', a black and white movie starring Ralph Richardson torn between his roles as a clergyman and a father - thanks Chris and Frances for the present. And The Lemon Tree, a film which tells the story of a Palestinian widow defending her lemon tree field when a new Israeli Minister of Defence moves next to her - it's real, challenging and moving. We thought that The Artist might be on general release but we'll have to wait until 6 January.
Other notable watching also including listening to the BBC2 broadcast of the Royal Opera House's stunning production of Tosca, with an entertaining introductory documentary with Antonio Pappano. Darcey Bussell Dances Hollywood, was stunning in a different way! And then Claudio Abbado's Mahler 9 with the Lucerne Festival Orchestra on DVD, another Christmas present. This performance concludes with three minutes of silence before the audience gives a standing ovation.
As for reading, Mary Oliver's New and Selected Poems, Vol. 2, is everything I expected it to be. If you haven't come across her poetry, a small extract from Everything:
'I want to make poems that say right out, plainly,
what I mean, that don't go looking for the
laces of elaboration, puffed sleeves. I want to
keep close and use often words like
heavy, heart, joy, soon, and to cherish
the question mark and her bold sister
The poem concludes,
'I want to make poems
that look into the earth and the heavens
and see the unseeable. I want them to honour
both the heart of faith, and the light of the world;
the gladness that says, without any words, everything.'
And finally I've begun Eugene Peterson's The Pastor, which does to me what all of his books do, that is, remind me of my primary calling and help me to recalibrate.
Lest this all sound a bit serious, there has been much family, food and drink. Let January commence properly tomorrow.