Wednesday, December 30, 2009
A different kind of Christmas
But there are other memories. The triumphant sense of having helped to make the midnight mass happen, and the joy of singing with a skilled group before and during it, making up in some ways for the cancelled carol service. "Bethlehem Down" is quite tricky by candlelight - even if you do cheat with tiny LED lights. The huge delight of seeing both my grandchildren - to say nothing of their parents - together on Boxing Day, and managing to get photos of them sitting like angels before we ate (again). The relief of journeys safely completed and of knowing the London contingent made it home in one piece.
And there were other firsts. I can't recall when the weather was quite so adverse at this time of the year, making motorway driving as slow as single track road traffic and outings to Asda as perilous as the Rock Fall on Everest. (note hyperbole here). And I haven't spent time in hospital on Christmas Day before, and have nothing but praise for the people who chose to work in Edinburgh Royal on that day and exuded reassurance, pain relief and the exhortation to have some turkey and that glass of Rioja when I got back to the house. (I recovered. I slept a lot)
And where did the message of Christmas come in? I suspect in that last paragraph, actually, for the people who don't focus entirely on church and home but make it possible for others to do so are cheery treasures. As I get older, I realise the futility of trying to hold onto the thrill I felt as a child, the wonder I found as a student in the singing of carols I'd only heard on the radio and could now perform well, the excitement of your own family Christmas as stockings were filled and hung and presents piled beneath the tree. This year we opened our own presents at 2am over a glass of malt, and the rest as part of the excitement of another generation. And that's as it should be. I'm not going to manufacture something that's passing.
Instead, I'm going to enjoy the image created by Fr. Hugh in his midnight sermon, of the Christ Child elbowing aside the ox and the ass of greed and selfishness - an image which had me chuckling at the thought of an infant as muscular and determined as my grandson Alan. It's an image which doesn't depend on ritual or appropriate footwear and which I can carry with me into any future Christmas season. It also gives a better meaning to the platitudinous "Christmas is for children" - for in a sense it is, and for the child in all of us.
So Happy Christmas, children, whatever your age!