Last December a silly but rather splendid survey was published in which people listed fifty things that they considered essential signs of a successful life. Having a holiday home was top of the list which also included flying first class, owning a TV larger than 55 inches, having a picnic hamper, electric gates for the garage and using a log burner.
Lurking at 48th place out of the 50 was the surprising entry ‘On first name terms with the local Vicar’.
Should there be any Marlborough News Online readers worried about their status and afraid that they have not made it all, perhaps some anxiety can be assuaged by the assurance that you have got Number 48 in the bag – please do call me Andrew!
The survey, conducted by the home improvement company Synseal, is clearly a frivolous piece of work, but December is a month of many such Top 50 lists, from books to wine, to best selling toys and music.
The lists vary from year to year and only rarely would an entry remain in place twelve months later, for ours is a society that loves the new and gets bored very readily.
One thing of which people never seem to tire is the Christmas Story. Somehow it can withstand any number of re-tellings and manage to speak to us afresh each year without being repetitive. Presumably this is because the story connects with something that lies within all of us and therefore allows us to find our own place within it.
The birth of a baby is an everyday occurrence but one that awakens the profoundest sense of awe and about which it is impossible to be cynical. Birth speaks of new beginnings, endless possibilities, immense love and also considerable vulnerability.
The promise of peace on earth and a person who embodies it, is something which resonates with our deepest longings, in the same way that a mother with nowhere to give birth touches some of our greatest fears. A family fleeing for safety from a despotic ruler makes the Christmas story horribly contemporary.
So it is that the Christmas story has a power of its own as it awakens our dreams and rekindles our hope. No wonder that it has been said that Christmas belongs to everyone. No wonder the story has a staying power all of its own.
The lists come and go and last year’s signs of success may well be different this December, but even if ‘Being on first name terms with the local Vicar’ has dropped out of the top 50, please do continue to call me Andrew!