Tag Archives: Christmas

Christmas 2014

Gerard Van Honthorst: Adoration of the shepherds Image credit: Wikimedia

Adoration of the shepherds. Gerard van Honthorst [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Christmas comes but once a year. When it does it brings good cheer. Is it true?

I write one week before Christmas. Already I have heard it said more than once, Christmas has come too early, you get tired of it, not least the noisy music blasting out over the tannoy in shops and public places heralding the arrival of the new-born king. It is sad to hear it said, we will be glad when it is all over. Christmas is meant to be a time of great cheer. I have a certain sympathy with the point of view that questions the justification for anything resembling the Nativity event. For example, Christmas shopping promotions and bargain hunting aside, what Christmas are we celebrating in those weeks before with our trees and lights and parties, our scurrying around for presents for friends and family hoping we have got the right gift for everyone? How much does Jesus the babe in the manger, the Lord Jesus Christ, feature in it all?

While my mind was centred along those lines, I thought you might appreciate the message on a card that came to us from an American friend: Care deeply, think kindly, act gently. And be at peace in the world, for this is the spirit of Christmas.

On the evening before we broke up at the end of term, there was a tradition in my college for the students to visit each of our tutors to sing a couple of carols for them and to wish them a happy Christmas. The visit concluded with us singing the tutor’s favourite. Each of them, with one exception, requested a traditional carol. The one exception always chose one of the Advent hymns that are sometimes not given fair treatment in our acts of worship in the four weeks prior to the big event. The one who did not conform insisted, quite correctly, that he was right in the stance he took – Christmas began at twelve midnight on the 24th December. And he was right!

Be of good cheer …….

Be not afraid; I bring you good news; news of great joy for the whole nation. Today there has been born to you in the city of David a deliverer – the Messiah, the Lord. (Luke 2: 10-11)

Wishing you all Joy this Christmastide.

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One Christmas Day

Westgate Hall, Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Image credit: Geograph

Westgate Hall, Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Image credit: Geograph

One Christmas Day at the Mission and there she was sitting on the stone step at Westgate Hall’s side door. She had come to share the hospitality, a meal and entertainment, that the Mission provided for thirty lonely men and women who would otherwise spend Christmas on their own, with little chance of anything like turkey or Christmas pudding. The trouble was she did not have a ticket to gain admission. Tickets were distributed to prospective guests, a precaution to ensure we kept within the limits of our ability to cope. The lady with the bag on the doorstep was determined to beat the system. She was not going to budge. Well, it was the season of goodwill: we could not turn her away and she joined the queue!

A short time after arrival, our guests were invited to take their places at the tables – the time for feasting had arrived. Within minutes we could be excused for thinking a riot was afoot at the bottom end of one of the tables, shouting and gesticulations, noisy protesting women looking ready for a fight, all of them pointing at one of their number – can you guess? – the lady with the bag, by now an open bag. “Hi, reverend, this wumen is filling her bag with the grub on the plates; her bag is under the table, take a look mister!” Sure enough, you guessed rightly. “Pit her oot, Father.” But it was Christmas!

Westgate Hall Doors. Image credit: Geograph

Westgate Hall Doors. Image credit: Geograph

One of my menfolk acted as doorman. Early in the proceedings he sought me out to explain he had a problem, a situation which threatened to escalate. Two drunks were making a nuisance of themselves and were trying to join the party. Eventually, when powers of persuasion failed,  I got them to promise that if I let them in they would be quiet and behave. A vain hope really! I thought they would either sleep during the showing of the film or become bored and leave early. After all, it was Christmas.

At going home time it was my practice to leave the hall and await folks’ departure in the porch with a small gift (chocolate) and send them on their way with a seasonal greeting. I was surprised that our two inebriated brothers had not emerged and a brief look around seemed to suggest they did go early. “Aye, they slipped out before the lights came on again; you know when you spoke that nice wee prayer, minister,” I was assured by a passing guest. Task at the door completed, so I thought, I returned to the Hall to discover two of our male guests, obviously upset by something and one of our members trying to console them. “It’s they drunks that have stolen them.” They were not going home until they got their missing garments, one trilby hat (must be trilby) and one coat. The two were known to me, one a regular at our Luncheon Club, the other a regular at Luncheon Club and worship on a Sunday evening. Alas, our clothing store had been cleared out as was the custom at the end of each year. Anyway, we did not get hats or many coats. I must admit that thoughts of “glad tidings of great joy” were not uppermost in my mind at that point. I got into the car and hurried home to the Manse, where my family were waiting for me to get finished so that presents could be opened and a belated Christmas Lunch put before us on the table. When I got back to church I was able to bid a fond farewell to two “happy bunnies” – one with my rather smart green trilby, the other with the garment which was referred to as my funeral coat!

It was Christmas, was it not?

Gerard Van Honthorst: Adoration of the shepherds Image credit: Wikimedia

Gerard Van Honthorst: Adoration of the shepherds
Image credit: Wikimedia

A joyful and peaceful Christmas and a good New Year to you all