I KNOW THAT OTHERS share the slight sense of shock that I’m feeling today. The image of my standing on a beach, 20 years or more ago, on the isle of Anglesey, near RAF Valley, came back to me this morning. A thunderous low flying military jet flew over my head, and gasping, albeit that it wasn’t a new experience, I can hear myself saying “Wow! What was that?”. For many years I’ve felt that way about Christmas. Maybe that’s why this is “Boxing Day”? My head feels slightly puddled today, and stunned in a similar sort of a way.
And actually, it’s been a Happy Christmas. I’ve shaken hands and exchanged greetings with hundreds and hundreds of people. I’ve been the grateful recipient of a great deal of kindness and warm generosity. And I hope that I’ve been kind and generous. But deep down I’m still left with an uneasy feeling about the enormity of a UK Christmas – for it’s really the celebration, for Christians, of a particular kind of littleness that had absolutely nothing to do with any form of self-interest or acquisition.
Deep down the “still small voice” encourages me not to worry too much about the overwhelming sense of relief I feel when high festival gives way to “ordinary time”. There’s an underwhelming sense of rightness, quietness, human-sized and human-shaped littleness in the stable of Bethlehem. Natural straw instead of wrapping paper. And lying in that straw is the Word that shows us the way back to our senses – whether we pay any attention, or not …
HAPPY CHRISTMAS to you … and thank you so much to those who shared in the full-to-capacity Carol Services at Bramall Hall today, and to the just short of 500 people who were present at our annual Christingle Service at 4pm on Christmas Eve – in aid of the Children’s Society. The baskets were full to overflowing with your generous gifts. The singing was amazing, the crib scene one of the warmest places on earth, the “welcoming home” of this year’s crop of brand new mums, dads and their own little nativity scenes, together with family members all, an absolute joy.
As I write this, for publication at midnight, I’m fortifying myself with a good supper before celebrating the Christmas Midnight Mass at 11pm – and meeting two more large eucharistic gatherings on Christmas Day in the morning. You’re all blessing. May you be blessed, richly, together with all you love, and care about, and pray for, this Christmas-tide and always.
Loved ones - some now on active service, and their loved ones at home – wives, husbands, children, parents, brothers, sisters, friends; and those safely returned; and the sadly bereaved; and those now in the eternally loving embrace of the God who made us all: you are not forgotten. Thank you.
WE’RE LOOKING FORWARD to welcoming all who gather to worship with us in the coming days at Bramall Hall Chapel and at St Michael & All Angels Bramhall. Please see the parish website for details of all our Christmas services and / or click the photo above for a moment or two’s happy reflection …
PRE-CHRISTMAS canter is just beginning to slow down a bit. Thoughts of a long sleep in the chair on Christmas afternoon are beginning to come into focus. And yesterday’s shortest day is now behind us, and longer, lighter days make tentative bids to return. Meanwhile I’m glad of the Christmas twinkle lights and especially love the white ones.
LOVELY CATCH-UP, albeit too brief, with my parents, “baby” brother Nick (and his wife and sons) and a second cousin (and his son) today. The families of the clergy are immensely patient and kind about the speed with which we run around the place at this time of the year, and the corresponding lack of proper time and attention coming their way. I’m blessed that mine have always been very, very kind about it. And – gratefully – I wish all family members, and faithful (even when neglected) friends, a happy and blessed Christmas
I MADE THE “MISTAKE” of asking our Active Angels to come and look for Baby Jesus in the manger this morning! The donkey was knocked off his feet almost immediately and appeared to have been buried beneath the floorboards of the stable. And handfuls of straw were transported to various quarters of the church in a trice. Soon we were away in a manger and a little host of two-three year olds had made the church look like a real stable. Just as they should do. Just as it should be. And the little lass who was charged with “nursing” Baby Jesus wouldn’t have let go of the little chap if the roof had blown off, bless her. Emmanuel indeed. In the midst of the endless adverts, the constant encouragement to go “last minute” shopping, the near-exhaustion of a clerical Christmas, God is indeed “with us”. We found the baby Jesus, we active angels.
THE STAR was well and truly followed this morning! And I hope the original wise men had such glorious fun en route – but without our fab Young Church leaders, Yvonne and Jill, they probably wouldn’t have been as well organised, and maybe not as joyful! Love and congratulations to each and every gospeller – who told the tale just as Jesus might have done … in a fresh and new and memorable way … Alleluia!
CHRISTMASworship at Bramhall Parish Church is a joy, and you’re invited to be a part of it. Please be assured of a warm welcome wherever you’re from, whether you’re a day old or 100 years old, whether you’ve been before or not. St Michael & All Angels Bramhall is a home beside the road for any of God’s children who wish to make it so. Bring yourself. Bring friends and family. Bring openness and peace with you. And you’ll find all those gifts surrounding you.
PUPPETS HAVE BEEN practicing our Young Church folks (yep, that way round!) in preparation for Sunday’s Nativity Presentation at 9.15am. I nipped across to the church for ten minutes this evening and am able to report that they’re extremely friendly puppets (and youngsters) – if a little more energetic than the vicar, who’s feeling the cold North winds in his bones tonight. It’s striking that real relationships have been established between the puppets and their life-enhancing young church friends. There’s a lot of life-enhancing going on, two-way. Like the Incarnation actually. This is going to be a Nativity presentation and a half, I can feel it. Worth a fifty-mile round trip taxi-fare even. Don’t miss it if at all possible