I took a chance on the colours of my latest project, not sure how it would turn out. Stephen West’s patterns fascinate me. I love the way he rewrites the rules, stretches the imagination and revels in colour. Good for using leftovers too. This is his: ‘Mohairino Medley’ – minus mohair which I find scratchy.

The original was knitted in burgundies, pinks and neutrals. It has four distinct wavy stitch bands with a colour sequence of five – so each of my 17 broad colour stripes is different. Clever!

A friend described the finished article as ‘spicy and reminiscent of the Middle East,’  which chimes with the Christian calendar for December.

My Christmas starts with liberation of the knitted nativity set from the shoe box where it has lain dormant since January.  Made by hand some two decades ago, each piece speaks to me of the mystery and wonder of that ancient event.  

There is no hierarchy of preciousness: the local shepherds share the stage with the wealthy foreign travellers; the sheep and the manger essential props for that insignificant newborn.

I wonder if God’s spirit was strong in supporting Mary and Joseph through the agony of producing that special God child in such wretched circumstances.  No running water, sterile delivery pack, pethidine, gas and air or epidural for the mother of the Messiah.  

Then no family visits or congratulations. Instead, gossip and disapproval back home from those who believed the young couple to be guilty of something for which they could not prove their innocence.

The religious establishment missed it, as did the politicians.  No help there.  Soon after, the young family became migrants.  The not-so-wise men had messed up by looking for the new King at Herod’s palace.  Mary and Joseph fled to Egypt to escape the slaughter of their fragile baby boy.

And through it all, did Mary see the cross?  Whatever agony she endured in producing the Saviour of the World, there was far worse to come.  Later, it would be her fate to watch him suffer the most barbaric death possible at the hands of Roman occupiers. 

It all looks so peaceful and innocent and amazing on my sideboard – and it is!  The light shines on in the darkness and the darkness has never put it out.  But the darkness is still there.  I  remind myself that following the guiding star may lead from comfort into conflict.

Mary, blessed among women.  Really ….?  Do I wish to be that blessed?  Can I not follow the star from the safer shadows?  Compromising with the darkness is not so bad – is it?

Saint Ignatius of Loyola talks of only two directions of travel in relation to God: towards the Light of the World in a state of ‘consolation’ or away from Him in ‘desolation’.  My task as a child of God is to discern which way I choose to face through the events and circumstances of each day.  It is not possible to travel in both directions at the same time.