O Little Town… Christmas comes to Cambridge, Massachusetts, December 25, 2011. 12:54 a.m. 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Winds W-NW 8 miles per hour.
by Dr. Jeffrey Lant
Author’s program note. Before I left on my Christmas walk-about at not quite 1 a.m. Eastern today, I turned on every light in my brilliantly lit house. On the lights in the hallway thereby exposing in radiance the wistful picture of a young 18th century prince of the House of Brunswick-Luneberg. Dead too soon, not even 20, he craves all the light I can give him, and that is much.
On the lights, all the lights in the Red Drawing Room, on the lights, all the lights in the Green Room, on the lights, all the lights in the Blue Room from where I am writing you now, where the chandelier throws out over 10,000 facets of light. So the seller told me; I have long since given up counting them… but their colors entrance while its welcome heat warms me…
What kind of mania is this that demands every light lit, every treasure burnished, everything bold, audacious, polished, warm and, to my uttermost ability, welcome?
Just this: It is Christmas Day, this very day, this day of days, to come but once and go… and I am alive, ready, eager to take myself from here and see how this 2,011th Christmas is evolving from my vantage point in Cambridge, Massachusetts. I command all this light, first, to celebrate the advent of this day and its great meaning, that on this very day, over two thousand years ago the Prince of Heaven was born, a boon to mankind, our sustaining hope unto the ages. And I want Him to know that He is welcome here… and always has been, though often I did not know or show it…
And, too, there must be light, an explosion of light, to welcome me home, for I mean to go out and see for myself how this Holy Night is faring and what my neighbors may be doing.
Red hat, white fur, my lassez passer.
This is my 63rd Christmas; the year when my many friends worldwide, of so many climes and countries, offer their advice freely before I venture out into the dark and cold. “Bundle up,” says Mark Anderson. “Remember to cover your ears,” proffers Dale Thomson. “Don’t stay out too long,” offers David Mobile. Such words, each one on any other day lese majeste’, convey care and love… and make me smile. A man like me knows well the warmth of such words and how to conjure them; they cheer the heart such as no fire can. Age hath its wisdoms and privileges; no one knows that better than I do, and I crave them as surely as air or sun; and get them, too.
And so I put on the foolish Santa hat I was given by a young friend who looked raffish when he wore it, whereas I look just silly… but I know that wearing it out this night of all nights, will safely mark me as harmless, eccentric, a man who has imbibed too much of the grape, erroneous conclusions to be sure, but useful when a man leaves his cozy house at midnight, and warm bed, too, to venture out into the piercing cold of a Bay State Christmas in pursuit of… but you must come out of your snug world and along with me to see.
Presents for me…
In the lobby of my building where I am now, I think, the senior resident or close to it, I see two boxes for me. These neat parcels, festooned by words like FedEx and UPS and the numeric mysteries of their tracking systems, firmly establish me as a card-carrying person of the middle classes and of means; poor people shop at stores and carry home their packages, often on buses and late-running subways. Mine ascend by elevators and are given by delivery men, exceptionally polite at this time of year, who say things like “Something else for you, Dr. Lant. Somebody loves you…”
But I have no time for such packages now… I have a mission.
Cold air, colder Puritan.
The cold of midnight is piercing but by no means the worst I have felt; the Internet weather report (the only place I go for weather intelligence anymore) says the wind chill factor is 10 degrees Fahrenheit. I feel superior to that, and further plunges, too. I am glad to take it, and to know I can still take worse; more evidence of my evergreen condition; of increasing importance as I get older…
The Cambridge Common, where by ancient law and privilege I could graze my cows (should I get some), is vacant tonight… but the statue of John Bridge continues its austere duty, scrutinizing the lives of Cantabridgians, ensuring not that we are as worthy as he (for that is impossible) but that we do not stray too far from his noble example.
Bridge was a Puritan, a man of God and God’s affairs and ran these, no doubt to God’s satisfaction, for Bridge’s all-worthy career prospered in mid-17th century Cambridge. Such men, the very fibre of moral rectitude and self-assurance (my ancestors, too, for the nonce) made a point of destroying the olde English Christmas of “God rest ye merry gentlemen.” Bridge would no doubt have disapproved the frivolity of my chapeau… and so I walked on, glad he was not coming to disdain my liberated Christmas.
The artistry of ice.
Burdened by winter as I often am here, captive of the chill Atlantic and its perishing cold, I more often avoid the ice than consider it. Tonight I rectified this error and stopped to scrutinize the random beauty of ice, frigid patterns that turned yesterday’s puddles into tonight’s etched allure. It is beautiful, the kind of sharp avant garde pattern in black and silver a stylish billionaire might use to dazzle every penthouse guest; here this transient beauty goes unremarked by all but me.
There is livelier fare across the street, when seven squad cars spurt police, busily at work at the main gate of Harvard College, just opened days ago from the thrall of the hapless revolutionaries who Occupied Harvard, but not effectively or for very long. The police are out in force, a tow-truck at the ready, a fellow human being in their arms, his Christmas and destiny to be paid out in hospital or jail cell.
I look instead at the statue of Senator Charles Sumner (1811-1874), a man of such austerity and respectability that when he escorted Mary Todd Lincoln there was no touch of scandal at all, though he was reckoned the most handsome man at Harvard and in Civil War Washington. I often wonder whether the burden of such rectitude made him happy. Certainly his statue does not show it. He was cold in life, and perhaps the coldness of this statue is its truest aspect.
I prefer to spend my Christmas night with another Harvard man, the Reverend Phillips Brooks (1835-1893). He is memorialized in Harvard Yard, but not in copper and stone. His is a memorial of people, for the people who admired and loved him created in 1904 Phillips Brooks House Association, a student-run, community-based non-profit public service organization whose mission is the true meaning of this holiday, to give and give until it truly helps and makes a difference.
Brooks took the fine tune by organist Lewis Redner and graced it in 1868 with the words we know as “O Little Town of Bethlehem” and whose words are my prayer for us all this day, and every day.
“O holy Child of Bethlehem Descend to us we pray… O come to us, abide with us Our Lord Emmanuel.”
(Concluded and sent to the world as the author’s gift, 5:05 a.m., Christmas Day, 2011).
About the Author
Harvard-educated Dr. Jeffrey Lant is CEO of Worldprofit, Inc., providing a wide range of online services for small and-home based businesses. Services include home business training, affiliate marketing training, earn-at-home programs, traffic tools, advertising, webcasting, hosting, design, WordPress Blogs and more. Find out why Worldprofit is considered the # 1 online Home Business Training program by getting a free Associate Membership today. http://www.worldprofit.com
Author: Jeffrey LantThis author has published 572 articles so far. More info about the author is coming soon.