There are only a couple of really excellent Christmas poems: Elliot’s ‘Journey of the Magi’ and Betjeman’s titular ‘Christmas'. Both poems manage to capture in very different ways the everyday, the human and the divine.
This marriage of two worlds is what Christ’s life symbolises; the divine taking on a human form; the timeless entering the world of time to redeem the creation. No matter how secular we are; how forgetful we are of the spiritual, Christmas still means something in this country. Like many religions Christianity has subsumed earlier pagan, beliefs and rituals - how I love it when the Christmas tree is brought inside and decorated; a little of nature, of the wild, brought into our homes.
Christmas is also a time to express gratitude; to be charitable. Each year I send my contribution to Crisis at Christmas, £28 pays for a homeless person to have a good Christmas, a medical check up, a bed for the night, a shower and of course a meal. I encourage you to do the same. How awful to be sleeping rough on the 25th and all alone.
Christmas also allows us to stop and reflect before New Year. I must say I have been delighted with my new Senior Management Team this term and the manner in which new staff members are raising standards and exciting the boys in Design and Technology, Music, Photography and Drama. Anyone who witnessed the wondrous music concert and dramatic production of ‘A Christmas Carol ‘last week will recognise the progress we have made.
It is a given that Physical Education is outstanding at St James. There have been some wonderful rugby performances and our U13 team are the best we have had in our history.
A real emphasis on pupil learning behaviour is bearing fruit and teachers are working hard to deliver engaging and well balanced lessons. This has changed, many modern school pupils come to school and expect to be entertained. Pupils’ family lives, social lives and the multi-media, poor attention and visual online worlds many live in do not lend themselves to diligent study, revision and application. Boys look askance when I say I have been studying Shakespeare for thirty years! I just study for the sake of study and pleasure. Teachers though are not stand up comedians and should not feel that they have to be. I would temper over-indulging young people as it spoils them. Indeed, I would like to see our pupils less risk averse and more intellectually curious.
The final stanza of Betjeman’s poem raises the urbane to a transcendent level, telling us not to forget that, ‘God was man in Palestine and lives today in Blood and Wine.’