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.
This is Birmingham Children’s Hospital Chapel at Christmas – what is missing in the photo is the word “world” as I couldn’t quite get everything I wanted in. For the carol service and for three evenings next week the chapel is lit by candle light and all around are different things that speak to us of Christmas. The four central candles were those lit for the intercessions in the service. The Altar front was made by the wonderful Tina Milne and her team who pray and so and create beautiful things used in many places around the world for worship. Their gift is such a blessing and each time I walk in and see it the little flame of home within is nourished.
The Carol Service yesterday was a beautiful celebration of the Christmas story which drew in many people who helped make it happen, the choir, the actors in the sketches, the team that got chapel ready and put it back, the CEO came and read the first lesson dressed as an elf! And the children from the school, their families, other children and staff were there to celebrate the amazing story that God became human and lived among us.
For Christmas, the answer according to a certain supermarket chain is ‘Me’. It is a great question and a provocative answer. In many ways I would agree. To be fully present, available, instead of gifts or money, is a creative option and potentially the most generous gift one person can give another. To love and be loved, are the pinnacle of humanity’s potential and fulfilment. Christmas gifts as ongoing instalments, a gift that has to keep on giving.
To do this to those I know and love, is difficult enough, let alone those I do not know or am not that keen on. what about, I know it’s hard to contemplate, those who do not want me for Christmas! Giving without being asked sounds a familiar to imitate.
Last time I checked the gift of Christmas was not me but Jesus. Praise God and lucky for everyone!!