T. S. Eliot, unlike Hardy or Clare a conservative Anglican, believed this nostalgia was a spiritual resource: A child’s fascination with the Christmas tree might last through “later experience,” the “fatigue, the tedium, / The awareness of death,” which grinds down adult belief and hope. In a different seasonal poem, “Journey of the Magi,” Eliot tells of the cold, uncomfortable expedition to seek the Christ Child (“the ways deep and the weather sharp”). But the poem is also about the adult’s return, through memory, to simpler days; and the Christian’s return, through endurance and patience, to a living belief.
Eliot’s poem seems to strike a chord with non-believers, and maybe it speaks to how the atheist or agnostic glimpses Christian truth: as something vanishingly small, at the end of a long and perhaps impossible journey. For the Christian, too, God enters the world without pomp, wishing to be found and loved, rather than to overwhelm and dazzle.
God Incarnate came into the world as though not wishing to be noticed. Perhaps this historical fact is more easily appreciated in a time when societies and lawmakers are very happy not to notice God at all.
Thomas Hardy rejected Christian doctrine, but could not let go of the story of Bethlehem.https://t.co/rRSDY6yxkQ
— First Things (@firstthingsmag) December 25, 2018