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!!
The light of Christ has come into the world and we celebrate that again today. This picture is of the Birmingham Children’s Hospital by candlelight. The altar frontispiece was lovingly and prayerfully sewn by Tina Milne and her team, it is a beautiful piece in a purple silky material to sit and meditate on. For three afternoons this week the chapel was available for anyone who wanted to to come in, receive hospitality, talk to a chaplain or just sit and contemplate or pray. Making space for people to encounter the light of the world or perhaps get a glimpse of light in their darkness is a great privilege.
Christmas blessings from us both and we appreciate everyone who takes the trouble to respond to what we post in so many ways.
When my mind is wandering I sometimes play with stories, this is where I went today. Many years before Jesus was born (310BC) the first recorded message in a bottle was found. I began to wonder if perhaps before Jesus was born someone, somewhere sent an SOS to the world (to quote the Police song) and someone, somewhere walking along the beach, found it and prayed to God for our souls to be saved. I have never heard this story before and it is probably not true but there may be an element of truth in it with people praying and asking God to save our souls. And God’s response was to become human through the birth of Jesus, something we are celebrating this week.
I wonder what our SOS to the world would be as we approach Christmas? A very simple analysis of answers to the question from children and young people would be we want to belong, we want to be connected. As people visit our churches I hope they feel a sense of connectedness, a sense of belonging, a sense of awe and wonder as they reflect on that amazing story of God who came to live among us.