Christmastime in Oxfordtown

Lanier’s note: I asked the lovely Sarah (Clarkson) Fink-Jensen if she would give us a peek into her life in Oxford, England at Christmastime–I’m sure you’ll be as delighted with her response as I was! Happy Christmas, friends! And thank you, Sarah, for this day of ‘postcard wonders!’

The mornings are sleepy these days in Oxford. Dawn peeks shyly in through the windows and taps me on the shoulder. Today, I’m up with the blue light. It’s my Saturday out-and-about in Oxford, and I have Christmas wonders to see.

First stop, the rooftop cafe of the Ashmolean museum, for an hour of writing and my weekly flat-white. I love this perch above Oxford’s centre, with the grey, high light washing over my hands. Today’s writing includes Christmas gift lists though, so I cannot linger too long.

Of course, I do take a brief ramble through the museum. Christmas mischief is apparently abroad.

And I always love the Ashmolean for a dose of beauty before I foray back into the busy streets…

But now, down to business. Gifts must be found for my beloveds. Glory be then, for the splendours awaiting me at the Oxford Christmas market, sprawling in merry abandon down Broad Street. I eye the annual bratwurst with envy, but think perhaps 10am is a bit too early for lunch (and besides, Thomas and I have already strolled this way the night before for dinner in the chill, fresh air.)

A teacup and candle booth. Yes, please.

And all carried out under the eyes of watchful angels…

Having snagged a basketful of small delights, thus satisfying my inner Christmas elf, I take a moment to sit on the steps of the Bodleian. I look down the archways to the inmost courtyard where the scholars enter the mazed wonders of this great palace of a library. Even they have a Christmas tree. I wonder if they feel a little restless at their desks today. I already gave up any thought of study…

I feel I’ve barely begun my day, but this is the season when the light dies before it really draws a deep breath. By 3 o’clock, there’s a shadow tinging the high blue of the clear skies. But it means the fairly lights glimmer out like stars and the gabled windows glow gold like the firesides they harbour. I turn my feet homeward.

And find the sky streaked and silky with a fireside glimmer of its own.

I stow my treasures just inside my bright red front door and scurry back across the street to church. Tonight is the annual carol service and there is music to be learned and songs to be sung. Gather round the piano all…

It’s going to be a gorgeous night. It’s the last week of Advent and the church has begun to gather Christmas lights and trees and greenery of all sorts in elegant swathes over lectern and pew. The waiting of Advent is almost at its end, and as the children troop in to don their cassocks and billowy white surplices, as they giggle and whisper, and as we troop in to sing the carols at the top of our merry lungs, you can feel the coming, coming, coming of a great light…and wonders that set small feet to dancing and older hearts to aching with a joy ‘poignant as grief’ in Tolkien’s perfect words.

When the service is over, we cannot linger. Tomorrow Thomas and I board our flight to Colorado and neither of us have packed a thing. So we trundle home after a mince pie and a sip of mulled wine. Our own Advent wreath is waiting and I sit at the table to savour the last quiet, to read a bit of what I wrote in my journal this morning, and to give a deep thanks for a day of postcard wonders whose images glow in my imagination, framed pictures of beauty and delight.

One in particular just happens to be my favourite:

Winston wishes you a merry Christmas.

And I do too.

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