When I was a child, Twelfth Night always came too soon, although by then the tree was losing its needles and some glass baubles had been broken. Wax candles clipped to the outermost branches were lit every night at dusk and waxen tears dripped silently to the floor.
Christmas was a time for reconciliation. Differences were laid aside as our parents shared in decorating the tree and filled stockings to place at the foot of our beds. How did I know? Because I crept downstairs to see if things were as they should be.
On the top branch was the angel and just below it was the star. They shone as symbols of expectation and hope even when I was very young and knew nothing of the Bible story.
Fear and wonder
It must have been much the same when the people of the Middle East and especially round Bethlehem, looked up to see a brilliant star in the dark sky.
Such portentous signs were a source of fear and wonder, and ancient astronomers recorded the presence of just such a star at about the time Jesus Christ was born, in the month we now call December.
As for the angel, we know from the Old Testament that Gabriel’s first recorded appearance was to give Daniel a message from God about “The End of Days” (Daniel 8: 15).
Muslims believe that Gabriel gave the Qur’an to the Prophet Mohammad but for Christians, Gabriel is the angel that told young Mary she would bear our Saviour, Christ Jesus.
It would be sad if political correctness and a general disenchantment with all things Godly brought to an end the gentle, less material side of Christmas. The angel and the star are powerful links to that world changing event 2,000 years ago.