Advent Calendar Day 12: What Child Is This

There’s one for my boy Carlton.

“Greensleeves” is a lovely melody, and an old one, and one originally about as holy as Trump Tower.  A classic ditty about a man trying to get a woman to stop giving him the old cold shoulder, it’s the kind of jam that Henry VIII used to bust out on the lute when he was picking up chicks at parties after Sir Thomas More had gone to bed, having in vain told His Majesty not to do anything that he wouldn’t do.  To which the king would simply laugh and say “whatever bro.  Hey, how’s that paper you’re writing for me coming?  I really want His Holiness the Pope to be impressed with my defense of Catholicism against the Protestant scourge.”  And then Sir Thomas would sigh and go upstairs, muttering “douchebag” under his breath so only the king could hear, which just made Henry laugh even harder.*

But it’s a beautiful tune, and a melancholy one, for the sadness of a lover scorned is a potent and piercing thing, and no doubt more than one petticoat got dropped when Henry VIII soulfully crooned the last verse and broke out the bedroom eyes and started gyrating his hips in a manner that Elvis would rediscover centuries later.**  Maybe it makes some sense for that melancholy to fit itself into occupied Judea, on fallen Earth, in the humble manger of the humble town where someone famous once came from.

Melancholy, and desire.  The desire for love, the desire for our desire to be returned, our want to be wanted, the hunger for belonging.  In that hunger, we’re in a place where the profane brushes up against the sacred, because in even the most debased lusts in the human heart, there’s a kernel somewhere of something higher, some trace of our need for the genuine article.  This is probably the C. S. Lewis talking with his hat full of neo-Platonism, but the faintest and most distorted shadows are still cast by something real.

And so we have Christmas, where we see a man crying out to the woman he wants to fill his needs with the same notes that announce the arrival of the Savior, who is the one who truly can fill all our needs.

*You can’t prove it didn’t happen.

**See above.

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