Round John Virgin, Mother and Child: The Magic and Mystery of Christmas

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“Silent night, holy night. All is calm, all is bright. Round yon Virgin Mother and Child, Holy Infant so tender and mild.” ~Joseph Mohr

Anyone who has ever sung Christmas carols knows about Round John Virgin.

He is the mystery dude who hangs out in the stable with Mary and baby Jesus in the hymn, Silent Night. Or at least that’s what I thought as a child, and millions of other English-speaking children probably thought as well when they sang the lyrics to the song.

“Round John Virgin,” in its nonsensical way, made more sense to a child than “round yon Virgin.” Why wouldn’t a fat man with a strange name be hanging around Mary and Jesus? Maybe he was Santa’s brother.

It’s so funny and endearing how children will totally accept the magic and mystery of Christmas, from the sublime to the ridiculous. Sometimes when I see ads with scantily-clad Hooter’s girls in Santa hats, or the non-stop advertisements for an array of stuff we don’t need, I wonder what these wide-eyed innocents are taking in as the real meaning of Christmas.

As a child, I was somehow able to separate what was truly magical and mysterious from the cheesy, over-the-top displays of commercialism and greed.

For a few weeks in December, life was transformed from the normal, everyday routine, to a strange and wonderful world where live trees appear in your living room decorated with shiny things, and a slightly scary man in a red suit flies around the world dropping toys down your chimney.

For those few weeks, magic was everywhere — in the twinkling lights, the appearance of wrapped gifts under the tree, the flow of yummy treats, and special outings in new clothes.

But mystery was definitely there too. Mysteriously, the world felt different, better and brighter, for those few weeks. People seemed more alive and loving. My parents got along; my siblings were nice to me. Everyone had a sense of hopeful anticipation.

There was talking and singing about peace, joy, love, holiness, and a bright shining star that led the way to a mysterious scene in a faraway land — a stable with a mother and a baby, a prince of peace.

Now we are adults, and much of that magic has evaporated. The truth about Round John Virgin and Santa Claus has been exposed.

We have strung enough lights to strip away the wonderment of their sparkle. We have wrapped the gifts, baked the cookies, and braved the malls to find the last American Girl Doll.

But if you step back from the shopping and the wrapping and the decorating, you will see that mystery is still all around us.

For me, that is what is real and exquisite about the Christmas season . . .

The mystery of the promise for peace, symbolized in the innocent hope and beauty of the infant born on a silent and holy night. The weary world rejoices.

The mystery of unconditional love, reflected in the eyes of the mother or father as they create Christmas magic for their own children. The wonders of their love.

The mystery of simple joys, experienced in the least-expected moments — sitting quietly by the fire, laughing and sharing with friends, talking about Christmases past. Joy to the world.

They mystery of nature’s beauty in the stark bare tree limbs, the deep snowfalls, or the bright, cold days. A midnight clear, a holy night.

They mystery of self-reflection and renewal as we end one year and begin thinking and planning for the days to come, the year to come. Let every heart prepare room.

In less than a week, it will be over. Christmas will be done, and the bittersweet dismantling of the decorations and holiday accoutrement will begin. The magic will be boxed away until next year. But the mystery of Christmas can remain alive. We need never outgrow what is real and beautiful about this season.

These mysteries can remain part of our daily lives, every day of the year, simply by placing our attention on them. Perhaps that is what Round John Virgin was doing in the stable that night when he was visiting the Prince of Peace —  sitting quietly, and acknowledging the glorious mystery of it all.

What is magical and mysterious about the Christmas season for you, either now or when  you were a child? Please share your thoughts in the comments.


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Comments

  1. Barrie, the Christmas Season isn’t over till Twelfth Night on Jan. 6 (or the eve before depending on how you count it). This is the Feast of the Magi who visit the Child not in the manger but in the house to which the family had been able to move…so I hear :). December 6 is St. Nicholas Day. Were I not the procrastinator I am (and yes, I am thinking about your class!), I would have my gifts sent to be opened on Dec. 6, keeping Christmas Day for the Christ Child….and perhaps some more gifts on Jan. 6. For me, keeping these Feast Days in mind takes a lot of pressure out of the “Christmas commercial” – since I don’t buy into it – literally and figuratively. Have a wonderful Christmas, all!
    .-= Roberta´s last blog ..Hounds on Earth and Heaven =-.

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      That’s lovely Roberta. Spreading it out over the month sounds so much more appealing, interspersing gift giving with the spiritual traditions. I hope you have a wonderful Christmas as well.

  2. Beautifully written post – as always!

    Creating memories that I’ll want to remember is of prime importance for me at this stage of my life. Yes, we can keep the mystery and magic of the season with us each day we live by remembering to treasure each breath we take, to be grateful for who we are and for what we have, finding ways we can express our love and care for ourselves and others, to be in a giving frame of mind as much as possible which includes giving to ourselves – replenishing our spirits especially! The mystery and magic of Christmas lives through us as we consciously create it each day.

    Thanks Barrie, for this wonder-filled reminder.

    Merry Christmas to all!
    .-= Martha´s last blog ..Welcome to Neema Book Publishing! =-.

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Replenishing the spirit — yes, that’s what this season is about. Conscious creation should be the Christmas gift we give to ourselves. Every day we get to have a beautiful gift of choosing how we want to live and respond to the world around us. Thank you for your thoughtful and kind comments Martha.

  3. Tess The Bold Life says:

    Hi Barrie,
    This is beautiful. As a child my mother’s baking was magical for me. Today the simplicity of our holidays are what is beautiful. We light candles, play music and our grandchildren fly in to spend their Christmas break with us. Wishing you joy! xo
    .-= Tess The Bold Life´s last blog ..A Gift In Goodbye- A Legacy of Love =-.

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      That sounds wonderful Tess. Nothing like small children to make Christmas joyful. By the way, thank you for your book! I love it. :)

  4. As a child Christmas for me was very much the same as your beautifully written post “…the world felt different, better and brighter, for those few weeks. People seemed more alive and loving. My parents got along; my siblings were nice to me. Everyone had a sense of hopeful anticipation.”. But now, for me Christmas means so much more. My heart becomes overwhelmed with joy as I acknowledge the precious Gift God send that silent Holy night. As promised, He had sent His Hope to a world in need, The Prince of Peace has come and now, to me, the magic of Christmas is about acknowledging that precious Gift and sharing the great news to others and seeing lives transformed as result. What greater love than the gift of eternity. Thank you Barry for a wonderful visionary of childhood memories.

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi Lisa,
      I am so glad you liked the post. Thank you for commenting and sharing the deep and profound meaning that Christmas has for you.

  5. Happy to share this beautiful post Barrie, and reflect for a moment — a timeless moment — on the mystery of which you speak. The mysery present in even the simplest of moments. Mystery is kin to magic, I believe, and I was filled with the magic of life just a few minutes ago as I went for a walk by a nearby stream and listened to the music of the rushing water.
    .-= Christopher Foster´s last blog ..Give yourself permission to sit quietly — and see what happens =-.

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Yes Christopher, magic and mystery are all around us. Only a lucky few take the time to acknowledge and appreciate it.

  6. I love the opening of your post Barrie. I have to admit that one of my favorite memories of Christmas was trying to figure out the mystery of how all those presents got under our tree on Christmas morning. I also really loved going to look at the lights on the houses on Christmas eve. Our neighborhood put candles in bags of sand, and it lit up the streets like runways. It was magical!

    Now, the mystery comes in creating and renewing traditions with my own family. To keep some mystery with us throughout the year is a great message. Merry Christmas Barrie :)
    .-= Marci´s last blog ..8 Unexpected Gifts that Defy Gravity =-.

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi Marci,
      Thank you for sharing your magical Christmas memory. I love the candles in sandbags. I bet that was spectacular. Wishing you mystery throughout 2011!

  7. Leah McClellan says:

    LOVE the title Barrie! And you know I suspected a blooper, right? I saw it on TDBS and didn’t even realize it was you Hee hee :)

    I know exactly what you mean–I had some songs like that too though I can’t remember which ones. As a kid we make sense of things as we can.

    Even though I don’t do much for the holiday, I enjoy the lights on people’s houses–always have. I love how they light up the dark night and make it so pretty. My dad used to take us for a drive around to see them because we lived in a rural area and were somewhat isolated, Lots of oohs and ahhs and “Wow, look at that one.” Now I enjoy walking with my dogs around the neighborhood in the evenings and admiring the lights–even the gaudy or haphazard sorts of displays or the blinky kind that give me a headache–love ‘em all, though I especially love the ones done in all white lights. It’s all beautiful and bright.

    Have a lovely holiday Barrie.
    .-= Leah McClellan´s last blog ..Turned a Cheek Lately =-.

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Haaa!! Leah, you are too funny. You would hope that I’d figure out “round yon Virgin” by adulthood. :) Yes, the lights are so lovely. We still do the drive around various neighborhoods to look at them, gaudy or gorgeous.

  8. M'Lynn Bermea says:

    One of my favorite Christmas magical memories was sitting up late after the kids were in bed with those sugar plums dancing over their heads, after the Santa deed was done and all the gifts placed lovingly around the tree waiting for morning squeals. Then and only then, did I indulge in a glass of my favorite bubbly by Christmas tree lights, inhaling the wondrous fragrance of the ‘real’ tree and make a trip down memory lane of Christmas past…both mine as a child and those of my little ones. No more shopping, no more baking…just quiet reflective time by white twinkle light. Those days are gone now and we travel to see the grandkids so they can stay home Christmas day with their own magic. My treat now is watching their faces as they tell me what Santa brought. I passed on the bubbly tradition to their parents, who will pass it on to them one day.

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Wow, that sounds delightful M’Lynn. I might enjoy that so much that the kids would find me passed out under the tree in the morning! :)

  9. Beautifully expressed. The mystery often gets lost I’m afraid.

    Too funny about the John Virgin.

  10. Ha! Instead of “Rejoice, rejoice….” my daughter thought it was “New toys, new toys!”

    Thanks for the memories. And the mystery.
    .-= Galen Pearl´s last blog ..Turning Toward Light =-.

  11. chris albert says:

    Even as a child growing up, I loved the sound and laughter and joy expressed by people around me at Christmas. Even now, I cherish those precious moments. If only we can all express such joyful thoughts, feelings and expressions of love each day to everyone around us. Sadly, this is not to be so for many in this world we live in. I am however, very clear now for the deep spiritual meaning of Christmas that I embrace rather than just being excited with the external expressions of it. Jesus is the reason for the season. The birth of Jesus marked a great spiritual beginning for all who would embrace the truth of who He is and why He was born. But whatever the reason, we should cherish every moment to celebrate. Why not at Christmas!

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