Radio Transcript


Hello and welcome to Open Book: A lively discussion of literature and spirituality. My name is Lori Strawn, and I’m a Pray Maker for Prayables.com, an online prayer community for women of all faiths. With me is my friend Alice Shelton. Hi, Alice.

Hi Lori

We would love to have you join our conversation. You can call 347-855-8506, or join us in the chatroom by signing in at Blog Talk Radio.

Well today is our big Christmas special and I’d like to start off the show by reading a bit of Dickens. Let’s face it, you can’t think of Christmas without thinking about Dickens, right? 


The following quote is, shockingly, not from “A Christmas Carol.” It comes from the book The Pickwick Papers, chapter 28.

“We write these words now, many miles distant from the spot at which, year after year, we met on that day, a merry and joyous circle. Many of the hearts that throbbed so gaily then have ceased to beat; many of the looks that shone so brightly then have ceased to glow; the hands we grasped have grown cold... and yet the old house, the room, the merry voices and smiling faces, the jest, the laugh, the most minute and trivial circumstances connected with those happy meetings crowd upon our mind at each recurrence of the season....Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to the delusions of our childish days; that can recall to the old man the pleasures of his youth; that can transport the sailor and the traveler thousands of miles away, back to his own fireside and his quiet home!”

What did you think about that, Alice?

Well I like the reminsence of it. I think Christmas is one of those Holidays that for people, whether they struggle for the Holidays or love it and revel in it, all of us really somehow try to capture each year something in our childhood Christmas. I don't know what it is about Christmas but for me it's, gosh, snow and snowy evening, and I don't know snow angels. There are just smells and sights that bring memories back from childhood. I'm one of those that has to reconcile every year with 'there is no Norman Rockwell family,' I seem to have to rediscover that but that's what this speaks to for me. It's just that somewhere we all want to reconnect to some perfect Christmas that we either experience as children or thought we experienced as children. I don't know, what do you think?

So true. I absolutely agree with you. Why don't you read somehting next?

Well you picked dickens and I picked Dr. Seuss. So my sister's name is Cindy and we called her Cindy Louhou so I think that's why I'm always drawn to the Grinch that Stole Christmas, but I think this has a little bit of sentiment about Christmas.

"And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled 'till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store? What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more?" 

What do you think Lori?

Oh I love that quote so much, it's my favorite part of the whole show and it's so true because, let's face it, as you said before we're all kind of striving for that perfect Christmas that we had as children, but it was never perfect. If you think about it, nothing's ever perfect. But it was enough.

That's right. And I think just as there's a little Santa in each one of us, I think there's a little Grinch in all of us.

And we have to fight to get past it.

That's right, that's right.

All right, next I'd like to read a poem by U.A. Fanthorpe. It’s called “The Wicked Fairy at the Manger”:

"My gift for the child:

No wife, kids, home;
No money sense. Unemployable.
Friends, yes. But the wrong sort —
The workshy, women, wimps,
Petty infringers of the law, persons
With notifiable diseases,
Poll tax collectors, tarts;
The bottom rung.
His end?
I think we’ll make it
Public, prolonged, painful.

Right, said the baby. That was roughly
What we had in mind.”

Yeah I have some friends who would love this. This is pretty profound.

I agree.

It sort of just says it right out there. It kind of puts it in understandable terms that we can get. This speaks to me a lot.

Agreed. In a way it's sort of like "Give me Does," the Christmas story, only, you know, no happy ending. You know they have the wicked fairy that shows up to the birth of the baby and puts a curse on him. You know, this poor child went in with all of this waiting ahead of him in his life, you know? Just amazing.

I like kind of the words that are used to describe the people who are going to be bringing about the kingdom of God. The people that we think are the wrong side of the track soar, I mean, and the fact that women is mentioned in it, wow, that's profound.


I'll definitely share this with some folks this season.

Wonderful, why don't you read another favorite?

This is really just part of the lyrics to what is my absolute favorite Christmas song, and that is The Little Drummer Boy, so this will be familiar to people. I especially love the Bing Crosby and David Bowie version of the song if anybody's wondering about that. I left out the "perumpumpum pum," let's just assume people know that.

"Little Baby
I am a poor boy too
I have no gift to bring
That's fit to give the King

Shall I play for you
On my drum? 

Mary nodded
The ox and lamb kept time
I played my drum for Him
I played my best for Him

Then He smiled at me,
Me and my drum."

What I love about that is really just the line "I played my best for Him" because I think that's one of the things at Christmas that we should really recognize; is that God gives us great and small gifts, and sometime even the smallest gifts that we think don't have a lot of meaning, if we do them with our best effort, God really really loves to see that.

Oh I could not have said that better, it was exactly what I was feeling. All he asks is that you give your best.

That's right, that's right.

My next selection, I'd like to read part of the poem “At Christmas” by Edgar Albert Guest:

“A man is at his finest towards the finish of the year;
He is almost what he should be when the Christmas season is here;
Then he’s thinking more of others than he’s thought the months before,
And the laughter of his children is a joy worth toiling for.
He is less a selfish creature than at any other time;
When the Christmas spirit rules him he comes close to the sublime.

Man is ever in a struggle and he’s oft misunderstood;
There are days the worst that’s in him is the master of the good.
But at Christmas kindness rules him and he puts himself aside
And his petty hates are vanquished and his heart is opened wide.
Oh, I don’t know how to say it, but somehow it seems to me
That at Christmas man is almost what God sent him here to be.”

Don't you like the use of the word "almost" in the last sentence? It "is almost what God sent him here to be.” Do you know when this was written?

You know what, I don't but I believe it was a long time ago.

I was going to say Edgar Albert Guest isn't really a familiar name to me. You have found some really neat things, I like that. I'd like to see the rest of the poem because this context is neat.

Yeah, how about you? Another one?

Well I went for the short ones but I do have another one. Now this one you may be familiar with this author and I did not find a reference to a book to this but the author of this quote is Mary Alan Chase. Do you know Mary Alan Chase?

I do.

Okay well maybe you can tell me about her some other time, but it's real brief. It just says:

"Christmas, children, is not a date, it is a state of mind."

And that's it.

Wow, that's beautiful and profound.

Yeah, it is. I would love to know what it's from. She may have said it off handedly in an interview. It's an important thing because so many times, if you have family all over the country or if you have people that you're not going to be able to see on the big day, think about friends who are divorced and have children living in other households, you know, they don't always see their children or the important people in our lives on that date. So I think it's important to try and think of Christmas as a time and state of mind, and kind of a state of being, and not try to get caught up on packing everything into one day. It's just a day.

It is in the end. Well we have time for one little extra short one so I've got a quote, it's by Taylor Caldwell and I'm not sure if this is part of a bigger work or something she said off hand, and the quote is:

“I am not alone at all, I thought. I was never alone at all. And that, of course, is the message of Christmas. We are never alone. Not when the night is darkest, the wind coldest, the world seemingly most indifferent. For this is still the time God chooses.”

Nice, well I have one more really really short one too that I think we can squeeze in. 

I think so too.

And this is by the wondeful, funny Erma Bombeck from a book, "I lost Everything in the Post-Natal Depression." She's so funny, the quote is:

“There’s nothing sadder in this world than to awake Christmas morning and not be a child.”

I think that's something to think about.

Well it is my birthday so I still get a little bit of a kick.

Christmas is your birthday?


Oh well Merry Christmas and Happy Birthday, very nice. I think I did know that, but you know, I'm sure I sent a gift Lori.

And it will be here any day.

Very good.

Well I we're going to have to finish up now I think and we're going to finish with a prayer from the Prayables collection, from www.prayables.com. It's called and it was written by yours truly.

Our driveway is a lot for rental cars,
our basement is a campsite:
blankets on couches,
air mattresses, sleeping bags.
Upstairs the cacophony of catching up:
Look how the kids have grown!
How was vacation?
Gee, I miss Gram.

Thank You for bringing us together.
Thank you for gathering us safely.
Thank You for this loud, unruly crowd:
My family, my heart.
Keep them in Your care,
for together or apart,
they sustain me.
Keep us from quarreling,
from raising old accusations and hurts.
We have so little time to love.
Please, help us to make each moment
together a memory.


Amen. I hope you and I both, as we are with our families and traveling this Holiday season, can remember that prayer, especially the second stand of it, I think that's important. So you have safe travels this holiday season.

And you as well. And I'd like to thank all of our listeners for listening today as we discuss a quote from Willa Cather's book "Death Come from an Archbishop." Until then, if you're looking for God, just open a book.

Happy Holidays!

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