I’ve never been to Iceland. Part of me says that if I ever get to go I’d want it to be on Christmas Eve. Ah, the light would be in short supply, no doubt, and it would be cold. But the draw of Jolabokaflod is strong. Jolabokaflod isn’t a difficult word to figure out, if you’re familiar with Indo-European languages. “Jol” (maybe the “a” is included) looks a lot like Yule. “Bok” is English book missing an “o” (again, maybe the “a” is part of it). And “flod,” likewise with another “o” becomes “flood.” The Yule Book Flood. The tradition is to give books on Christmas Eve and spend the long hours of darkness reading. Iceland has the reputation for being a very literate culture. I’ve read a number of books (in translation) by Icelandic authors. If there’s ever to be peace on earth and goodwill to all, it will be through books.
If you observe Christmas, today is that great time of anticipation, Christmas Eve. Churches, whether virtual or in person, will be humming places this day. Last-minute shoppers will be out and frantic. Some will be insisting we keep Christ in Christmas while others will be dreaming of sugarplums and fairies. Some will be tracking Santa on NORAD. In Iceland they’ll be exchanging books. Politicians will continue their calculated plotting but I dearly wish they’d spend the day reading instead. Perhaps there would be fewer tanks at the Ukraine border if those in Moscow would curl up with a good book. Check the progress of their Goodreads challenge. Open up the flood-gates and let the books pour in.
There are those who believe this world should be consumed by God’s awful fire, and that right soon. But God, as I understand it, is a writer of books. Perhaps the divine plan is different than so many suppose. Even the angels sang about peace on earth in one of those books. You never know what’s going to be under the tree, but in our house books are always a certainty. The words that describe this season—joy, peace, goodwill—can come in a few ounces of paper, ink, and glue. And if God’s own book tells us to love one another, who are we to argue on Christmas Eve? And if it’s true today won’t it be true also tomorrow and every other day beyond that? Iceland has grown out of its warlike past. And today they’re exchanging books. Perhaps there’s a lesson there for all of us.