Merry Christmas! Well, almost... Christmas seems to have been going on for three weeks already this year. The kids are exhausted from a constant stream of parties and relatives and Santas. I'm somewhat confused the actual day hasn't quite arrived yet.
That said, I'm putting off wrapping a big pile of presents by writing to you.
Still, I'm looking forward to singing plenty of carols in the next couple of days. There's the Christmas Eve Christingle service tomorrow. (Forget offering hope, love and forgiveness - the Christingle is where we entice families with young children into the building with promises of oranges and sweets.) Then, of course, there'll be more carols on Christmas Day. I like them because most of them have decent tunes that even tone deaf people like me can just about manage to belt out.
We got a bit of a taster at church today with Oh, little town of Bethlehem:
Oh, little town of Bethlehem,
How still we see thee lie.
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep,
The silent stars go by.
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The ever-lasting light.
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight.
It's probably my favourite carol. ...The hopes and fears of all the years... That line always stirs up emotions and usually makes me think about God becoming human to show us how to live, to fix our relationship with him and to give us a glimpse of the world beyond.
Today, however, my mind turned elsewhere.
Spare a thought for Joseph.Best wishes to all your family. Have a great Christmas. I'd better go wrap those presents.
He'd had to live through months of gossip, thanks to the wedding date and due date not entirely adding up. That had been followed by a lengthy trek with a heavily pregnant wife in order to register for a census which was almost certainly merely an excuse to stiff him with a hefty tax bill. Then he'd failed in his first task as a dad - finding somewhere decent for his child to be born. (This isn't normally the first task, but he'd missed out on the usual one and that was a whole different issue entirely...)
So he finds himself in the stable, surrounded by animals. He's finally managed to get the rowdy shepherds out the door, along with all the townsfolk made curious by the talk of angels and saviours. Mary is passed out from exhaustion in the corner. He wouldn't mind joining her. He wouldn't mind just going and lying down beside her and giving her a cuddle.
If only the little Lord Jesus would flipping lay down his sweet head.
No crying he makes? Yeah, right. Newborn babies are usually pretty frustrated and irritated. This one has recently gone from holding the whole world in his hands to not being able to find his own thumb without sticking it in his eye. That's one very frustrated and irritated baby.
Chances of a silent night: slim.
So Joseph sits there, bleary-eyed, rocking the baby in his arms and finally has the opportunity to wonder what he's got himself into. He suddenly realises he's a dad. Never mind the dreams and prophecies, he has a tiny life to take care of. A son! A son to teach and love, to provide for and protect. Terror and pride mix together at the prospect.
...The hopes and fears of all the years...
At that moment, he feels the truth of those words more than anyone.
Then he discovers his sleeve is warm and wet. He sighs and starts hunting around for a few more swaddling clothes. It's going to be a long night...
Yours in a woman's world,
PS Did you ever read the somewhat unorthodox nativity play I sent? If you haven't, then I can't think of a better time.