December 2012

From the Rectory

During Advent the Church looks back, examining scripture to see what the prophets of old had to say about the coming of the Messiah. Advent, a time to pause and take time, if only. Things gather pace and very quickly we are caught up in the preparations for Christmas itself. It all happen at an alarming rate, and we barely have time to fit it all in.

Is it just me or as I grow older does time really get shorter? Then just as Christians set about celebrating the ‘Twelve days of Christmas’ the rest of the world packs it all away on Boxing Day and starts to fill the shops with Valentine cards and Easter Eggs. Adults should know better, most Christians do. We influence the children as we flit from one thing to another. One day for a child is like a month to grown ups. They live in the moment and that I envy.

Since the arrival of three grandchildren, Christmas at the Rectory has changed somewhat. Lila five, Rosie three and Josie two and already expectations of Christmas are high. If there was no mention of it in the shops, at school and nursery or on the television it wouldn’t arrive for them until December 25th. They wouldn’t know any different if that’s how it was for them. It was not unlike that for my generation. Even at such a young age children today are being bombarded with images that mean that Christmas starts in October when it all arrives in the supermarkets.

This year with Lila now at school she will experience all of that excitement with her class mates as they make decorations and simple gifts. They will also be rehearsing what will be for her, her first experience of a Nativity play. As I write I hear that she will be playing the part of Mary. What will that be like for her I wonder? Every person who has ever been a teacher of small children or a school governor or had a close link with a school has a story to tell about the Christmas Nativity Play. Here’s one such story.

Outside just before the play was due to start, a small boy was hurrying into school along with lots of other people. ‘Where are they all going?’ I asked. ‘To the Nativity play’ the boy answered, ‘Mary’s got nits!’

There was one play when the Innkeeper, when asked if there was any room at the inn, answered, ‘Plenty’, and bundled Mary and Joseph inside. On another occasion Mary dropped the baby Jesus and the ‘dolly’ all wrapped in swaddling bands rolled off the stage and into the audience. The Archangel Gabriel entered the scene and informed Mary that he had tidings of great joy but had completely forgotten what they were. Then the time when Joseph strode confidently onto the stage and asked Mary, ‘And how’s our Jesus doin’ then?’ On one unforgettable occasion, at an infant school the Angel of the Lord appeared on stage, all dressed for the part in long flowing robes, she was however unawares that her robes had got caught up in her knickers. The shepherds noticed though. Gabriel began, ‘Fear not, I bring glad tidings - ‘I can see your knickers’ one of the shepherds said. Gabriel carried on, ‘To you in David’s town is born…’ ‘I can see your knickers.’ Gabriel screwed up her face and said, ‘Shut up!’ then burst into tears. Things moved on, the three kings presented their gifts, Mary pushed the baby Jesus at Joseph and said, ‘Here you hold him’ he’s too heavy.

What was your experience of the school Nativity? Were you Mary or Joseph? Or like me, just a person in the background with nothing much to do.

Christmas is a wonderful time, a time for family and friends and for re-connecting with those that we don’t see very often. A time to remember the homeless, places where there is war and strife and to pray for peace. Peace on earth. A time to wonder at the Christ-child who came down to earth from heaven. The Prince of Peace.

Have a happy and holy Christmas and may the New Year bring you its own joy and peace. As for now, enjoy the moment.

Yours for Christ's sake.