How Do We Prepare?
Advent 1955By John BetjemanThe Advent wind begins to stirWith sea-like sounds in our Scotch fir,It’s dark at breakfast, dark at tea,And in between we only seeClouds hurrying across the skyAnd rain-wet roads the wind blows dryAnd branches bending to the galeAgainst great skies all silver paleThe world seems travelling into space,And travelling at a faster paceThan in the leisured summer weatherWhen we and it sit out together,For now we feel the world spin roundOn some momentous journey bound –Journey to what? to whom? to where?The Advent bells call out ‘Prepare,Your world is journeying to the birth
Of God made Man for us on earth.And how, in fact, do we prepareThe great day that waits us there –For the twenty-fifth day of December,The birth of Christ? For some it meansAn interchange of hunting scenesOn coloured cards, And I rememberLast year I sent out twenty yards,Laid end to end, of Christmas cardsTo people that I scarcely know –They’d sent a card to me, and soI had to send one back. Oh dear!Is this a form of Christmas cheer?Or is it, which is less surprising,My pride gone in for advertising?The only cards that really countAre that extremely small amountFrom real friends who keep in touchAnd are not rich but love us muchSome ways indeed are very odd
By which we hail the birth of GodWe raise the price of things in shops,We give plain boxes fancy topsAnd lines which traders cannot sellThus parcell’d go extremely wellWe dole out bribes we call a presentTo those to whom we must be pleasantFor business reasons. Our defence isThese bribes are charged against expensesAnd bring relief in Income TaxEnough of these unworthy cracks!‘The time draws near the birth of Christ’.A present that cannot be pricedGiven two thousand years agoYet if God had not given soHe still would be a distant stranger
And not the Baby in the manger
Source: Collected Poems by John Betjeman. London: John Murray; New Edition, 2003. Found on the Education for Justice website.