Can you feel the night? I watch stars as a small herd of sheep quietly graze on evening grass. The hills are monochrome against a dark sky. A small flicker of light hugs a corner near the dry riverbed. This is Bethlehem in Galilee. You know the light. It comes from a stable cut into the rock of our imagination. It is real, if anything is real. It has changed lives. It is an ever-changing artefact that demands our attention and devotion. It is no random event, it is a creature that has crawled through history living and breathing with us. It is where our story begins.
Can you feel the sunrise? I watch as a herd of cows make their way towards the milking-shed, their udders full. If I can get myself out of bed I will walk down and watch them being milked by Jock, the milkman. I’ll watch the machines suck the long, thin teats as the warm-white liquid flows along the transparent pipes. If I remember to take the small churn, I will bring back milk with me. Mum will be pleased.
Story is like wine. Built from parcels of life full of encounter and sunshine, stored and fermented. Forgive me then if, sometimes, I ride my paper bike, intoxicated. As children, we live a life of tall grass and long days. We don’t notice the wide gaps that exists in between the rare moments we are touched by the sacred hand that strokes the air around us. As adults we grow easily bored, as the world begins to belittle itself and we lose faith in the day. Story and wine replaces the magic we once knew when we didn’t know what we imagine we know.
Can you smell the hops? They came at the time we’d be sent to celebrate harvest-festival in church. Dragged by unbelieving teachers and an indifferent curriculum, we’d stand stone-cold and get to know hymns that would after, accompany us through the years and become familiar friends. It all made sense: The stable, the three kings, the child, the words and deeds, the body and blood. It all made sense until it didn’t. Story is a poor substitute for the real thing, but it is all we have. And its real all the same. A different sort of real.
I’d walk to the hop kiln and watch the men work into the night. The fires would glow, and the hops would dry to a crisp grey-green. Dad worked hard. I didn’t realise then, how close those days were to ending. At school we’d be told how machine would soon do our labour for us and that we’d have so much leisure time we’d not know what to do with it. We have. We spend our time looking back for the meaning we once had. Even the recent-born realise there is something missing.