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Thursday, January 03, 2008

cover of Miracle

It's been a couple of years since I read Connie Willis' collection of Christmas stories, and I thought maybe it would help get me into the Christmas spirit. One of her stories ("Inn") was similar but more moving than a sermon, about finding space and time for Christ in the midst of our busy lives and welcoming him in. I finished the last story, about three new wise men and a strange second coming, right around the end of the 12 days of Christmas, at Epiphany, and that seemed completely appropriate as well. Not all of the stories are this serious; I enjoyed most of them, but the deeper ones seem to resonate especially this year. I've read and written about this before, so I think this time I'll just quote some key lines from my favorite parts.

From the introduction:

The recounting of the first Christmas (you know, the baby in the manger) has all the elements of great storytelling: drama, danger, special effects, dreams and warnings, betrayals, narrow escapes, and-- combined with the Easter story-- the happiest ending of all.


"You look like you could use a little Christmas spirit."
"No thanks, I've already got one," Lauren said.


She regarded all this-- the girl's awkward bulkiness and the boy's beard, the fact that they had not sat down, the fact that it was the light from the adult Sunday school room that was making her see now what she hadn't before-- with some part of her mind that was still functioning ... some part of her mind that was taking in the details that proved what she had alraedy known the monet she opened the door.
"What are you doing here?" she whispered...
Poor things, she thought, leaning her cheek against the door. Poor things. So young, and so far away from home. She wondered what they made of it all. Did they think they had wandered into a palace in some strange kingdom? There's stranger yet to come, she thought, shepherds and angels and old men from the east, bearing jewelry boxes and perfume bottles. And then Cana. And Jerusalem. And Golgotha.

"The Pony"

Barbara held the tag a little away from her as if she were afraid of it. It had a Santa Claus on it. It read "To Barbara." The present was big enough to be a pony. Or something worse. Something only your subconscious knew you wanted. Something too frightening for your conscious mind to even know it wanted.


... Sir Spencer Siddon, Sir Scrawl of the new hardbacks only and the Armentières water, Sir Scrooge and his damnable secretary who had not even recognized the Spirits of Christmas, let alone heeded them, who had no desire to keep Christmas ...


"Did anything unusual happen to you over Thanksgiving? ... I flew out to my parents' for Thanksgiving, and on the flight home-- you know how people always carry on luggage taht won't fit in the overhead compartments and then try to cram it in? ... Well, nobody did that on my flight. They didn't carry on hanging bags or enormous shopping bags full of Christmas present. Some people didn't even have a carry-on. And that isn't all. Our flight was half an hour late, and the flight attendent said, 'Those of you who do not have connecting flights, please remain seated until those with connections have deplaned.' And they did." He looked at me expectantly.
"Maybe everybody was just in the Christmas spirit."
He shook his head. "All four babies on the flight slept the whole way, and the toddler behind me didn't kick the seat."
That was unusual.


Mel kicked the heater over to high, and the kid leaned forward and held his hands in front of ghe vent. There was a peace sign tattooed on the back of one of them and a fierce-looking lion on the other. Both looked like they'd been done by hand.
The kid rubbed his hands together, wincing, and Mel took another look. His hands were red with cold and between the tattoo lines there were ugly white splotches. The kid started rubbing them again.
... His hand looked even worse now that it was warming up. The sickly white splotches stood out starkly against the rest of his skin.
"There's always a battle between good and evil," Mel said. "Look at the first time He came. He hadn't been on earth a week before Herod's men were out looking for Him. They murdred every baby and two-year-old in Bethlehem, trying to kill Him."
And thirty-three years later they succeeded, Mel thought. Only killing couldn't stop Him. Nothing could stop Him.
Who had said that? The kid from the carnival, talking about the [crack in the] windshield. "Nothing can stop it. There's stuff you could do to keep it from spreading for a while, but it's still going to spread. There ain't nothing that can stop it."

Maybe next year I will remember to look at Willis' book and movie recommendations at the beginning of the Christmas season when I might have time to find and enjoy them.

Title:Miracle and Other Christmas Stories
Author:Connie Willis
Date published:1999
Genre:Science Fiction, Short Stories
Number of pages:298
Notes:repeat reading


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