This poem beautifully expresses a bit of the hope that Christmas embodies, even for those who live in the darkness of doubt.
Christmas Eve, and twelve of the clock.
“Now they are all on their knees,”
An elder said as we sat in a flock
By the embers in hearthside ease.
We pictured the meek mild creatures where
They dwelt in their strawy pen,
Nor did it occur to one of us there
To doubt they were kneeling then.
So fair a fancy few would weave
In these years! Yet, I feel,
If someone said on Christmas Eve,
“Come; see the oxen kneel,
“In the lonely barton by yonder coomb
Our childhood used to know,”
I should go with him in the gloom,
Hoping it might be so.
There is a short and sweet analysis over at Interesting Literature. One of the things I love about the poems of early modernity is their raw honesty concerning the present hopeless age. These poets ask the right questions. Such a powerful reminder for us as Christmas people of our need to remember—or, for covenant children who have never known it, to imagine—the hunger for a solid hope in this vale of tears. “He has also set eternity in the heart [of men]. . .” Ecclesiastes 3:10.