11 December 2010

In His Ignorance

Written for the Christmas Carol Service 2000 held in Birmingham Cathedral
Copyright Valerie Daggatt 2000

The sun shone on the frozen town but it yielded no warmth to the boy whose occupation was to construct a cave. Diligently, in the quiet churchyard, he chiseled impacted snow with his boot, squatting occasionally to scoop chippings with his bare hands. He could hear the choristers singing: Oh Come All Ye Faithful. His favourite. Humming as he worked, he felt strangely ashamed that he did not know the words, but then he had never been encouraged to learn religious songs.

The Boy in his ignorance did not understand

Tiring of the pointless exercise, the boy adjusted his baseball cap. Hungry and cold, he shoved his numb hands into his pockets and considered going home, but the idea was discounted as quickly as it occurred. His Dad would be on the Internet and he hated to be disturbed when he was surfing. It was all he thought of, except when Sky Sport was on the telly. Christmas meant nothing to him; there were too many mysteries for his liking.

The Boy, in his ignorance, did not understand

Nor did he understand his mother, who sang so joyfully before she discovered drugs and who believed the Millennium would be her salvation.

The boy, in his ignorance, did not understand.

A new carol began: We Three Kings of Orient Are. Leaning against the edifice the boy banged his heel and bounced his head in rhythm. Suddenly, a shadow fell before him and he stiffened, fearful lest he was doing wrong.

The man whose shadow the boy had seen, a bearded man in a grey robe, came to stand in front of him. 'I am the Custodian,' he said in a gentle voice. 'Would you like to see our Christmas tableau?'

The boy remembered his father deriding the church's endeavours to recreate the nativity. This was the modern age, how could they reproduce what never existed?

The boy, in his ignorance, did not understand.

Feeling the first stirrings of inquisitiveness, a yearning suddenly to see inside, the boy took the stranger's hand and allowed himself to be led away.

Festooned with berry-laden holly, the church was alive with Christmas atmosphere. There was a sweet smelling pine tree, shining with baubles and a silver cross, but it was the nativity display that caught the boy's attention. Viewed by hushed, reverent children, each one pointing to a thing of note, it was as wondrous as fairyland. The wide-eyed boy crept nearer, wanting to touch the blue-eyed baby in the straw-filled stall.

Without warning, from the depths of the church there came great crashes of reverberating chords, followed by a more peaceful air.

And the congregation sang: Once in Royal David's City.

The boy, in his ignorance, did not understand the passion he felt or the coursing tears as he joined in, humming when the lyrics eluded him. Unwittingly, he stepped back, not wanting to disturb the sleeping babe, and when the carol ended he turned and fled and did not halt until he reached the outside.

The Custodian advanced towards him, smiling, gliding almost through fresh snow. Not wanting to show his tears, the boy made off. It wasn't proper to cry, his Dad said.

'Peace be with you, the man called.

'Thanks,' hurled back the boy, and he sprinted away leaving a trail of footprints in his wake.

As he sped along, he reflected on the pleasant experience. He could hardly wait to tell his Dad.

Peace be with you, the man had said, and the boy, in his wisdom, understood.


  1. Moving stuff : and I like the way you interlaced contemporary stuff (the internet and Sky Sports) into a timeless tale.

  2. oh to be so ignorant...smiles. nice.

  3. That brought a lump to my throat Valerie. Wonderful. x

  4. Valerie dearest lady, this was absolutely breathtaking!

    And like Akelamalu, it brought a lump to my throat and a tear to my eye.

    Truly, the best Christmas story I've ever read.

    "Peace be with you, the man had said, and the boy, in his wisdom, understood."

    Flawless ending.

    Thank you for sharing!

    Happy Holidays, Valerie!


  5. I am so pleased you all enjoyed this piece. I was a bit hesitant as it is ten years since I wrote it. It raised a lot of eyebrows at the time. Two ladies read it in church and my Guy and I were in the congregation. Comments could be heard like 'well, that was different' and 'it's a bit modern' and 'too bad it gets away from the norm' which, of course, I intended considering it was the year 2000and change was to be expected.

  6. Oh Val don't ever stop sharing your stories, they are wonderful and this one is beautiful. I say this with a tear in my eye.
    .......:-) Hugs

  7. Just popped over from Valance's blog Val, wanted to asked you if you were still wearing garters. I am enjoying the comments on his Advent project, he's funny. Take care my friend, we are having a major snow storm at the moment. xo

  8. Thank you, Patsy.

    Oooh Bernie, I had to leave off the garters, they were far too tight. Still, it was nice while it lasted. Our snow storm is due tomorrow, so they say. Stay warm, my friend.

  9. Loved this post!

    Happy Holidays Sweetie.


  10. A truly wonderful tale and it is something I can't wait to share with my little man. Thank you once again Val for sharing your great talents with us. Have a lovely weekend.


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