At the end of our writing week we treated ourselves to afternoon tea in a local hotel. Sitting looking out at the window and what looked to me like a fairytale picture left me reminiscing of the fun I had playing in my wendy house when I was a little girl. But this was much more exciting! But there was a reality when we got up close that we couldn’t see through the window – it was an abandoned wedding scene blown over chairs, table cloths on the ground and everything still at risk of more damage from the wind and the rain. We need to try to look beyond the superficial sometimes.
I am mindful at this time of year that there can be a bit of pressure for a fairytale Christmas that we need to do our best to resist. I have had several conversations with people about the challenges that Christmas brings and I am leading another blue Christmas service on 19th December for those who want a space where they can acknowledge the bits of the season that are hard. But I am reminded too that the Christmas story is not a fairy tale, it is about Jesus, God who came to dwell among us and who has changed my life forever.
For the first time in around forty years I have not had. Christmas card from Carol. She is one of a small number of friends who I don’t connect with on social media or have an email address for. Each Christmas and birthday we handwrite our news. I am now wondering what has happened. Is it a post office blip? I am beginning to get to the age where friends are dying (still comparatively young) but when, like Carol, they are not part of any other network or friendship group I am not sure what to do. I will see what happens in February… Although we have not met for nearly all those years Carol was part of an important time in my life and I remember her kindness and encouragement with gratitude.
This question gets asked in several ways. Sometimes it is when we want someone to get on with something, when it is unclear why they are waiting. I use this one frequently to the car in front at the green traffic lights or the empty roundabout. When it comes to discussing what Christmas means to us, what events and services we are helping, going to, we can sometimes be a bit slow, hesitant. For many for us it is because we do not want to be pushy, but perhaps we have backed off too much.
The benefit I have found in facilitating multi faith celebrations, is that I can be clear, transparent, when explaining a Christian celebration such as Christmas. Unashamedly remembering the reason for the Season, celebrating the gift of Jesus to our world. what are we waiting for?
I am amazed every year at the creativity and commitment of those who grow and arrange these flowers to form the Cotehele garland. This year it is very bright and to me radiates hope. The flowers are largely the same every year but the way they are put together changes creating a different feel. It is now part of my Christmas celebrations, sitting in the hall, a log fire burning, looking and marvelling and being filled with wonder. Little rituals of rest and reflection among much of the busyness of Christmas nurtures me and connects me to the waiting dimension of advent.
There are lots of images, titles and names that come up in our Christmas readings, Prince of Peace, Counsellor, Saviour, Messiah and one of my favourites, Emmanuel, meaning God with us, is a central to the message of Christmas. It was the theme I used in my short talk at the hospital Christmas day communion I led this morning. It felt very suitable as we continue to reflect on what we can say and pray for poorly children. What will God always want to be and do for every child and family in hospital. God with us, at home , God with us in hospital, God with us in church , God with us when we don’t feel it, when we lament, celebrate, are despondent. God with us for comfort, strength, peace, hope . God with us in 2016, Gods promise for 2017 what ever it brings. There is hope for us after all!
This is us under the mistletoe at Cotehele, home of the amazing Christmas garland. Both being ordained we wind up to Christmas day rather than wind down and this year Paul’s not winding down very much being on call all over the holidays. This is one of our little traditions which we enjoy along with some of the more meaningful ones like chapel by candlelight at Paul’s hospital, the roving nativity complete with donkey at Hodge Hill Church, the staff meal at the golf club with bubbles given by a mystery person! Paul’s nativity on the renal unit complete with bad jokes and this year more animals than can ever have been around when Jesus was born – that’s taking place as this blog is posted. And last night we started the sherry trifle I make for Mum and the big bar of Toblerone which is a Christmas chocolate treat – I managed to find one before they made the spaces bigger. Happy Christmas!
This week I will be leading a service on a renal unit. It is something I do every year and it is normally a combination of the nativity story and the cultural trend of the time. We have done Christmas gangnam style, a onesie Christmas, a Muppet Christmas carol and of course, Frozen!
This year will be slightly different, the ward manager has ordered 13+ different balloon animals, they have legs and a lead! the fun will be that they are visiting during the nativity service but I do not know what ones she has ordered. So as well as potentially the traditional donkey, sheep and camels, we will see what more unusual animals turn up on the way to Bethlehem, in the stable, what the shepherds are looking after and what the kings are riding!!
So out of necessity it will have to be a bit of making it up as we go along, hopefully we’ll have lots of fun and celebrate and retell the story of Emmanuel, God with us in our world and still with us today in our hospital.