Tag Archives: Christmas Eve

“Goodwill to Men – Give us your Money!” by Pam Ayres

Goodwill to Men – Give us your Money!” by Pam Ayres

 

It was Christmas Eve on a Friday
The shops was full of cheer,
With tinsel in the windows,
And presents twice as dear.
A thousand Father Christmases,
Sat in their little huts,
And folk was buying crackers
And folk was buying nuts.All up and down the country,
Before the light was snuffed,
Turkeys they get murdered,
And cockerels they got stuffed,
Christmas cakes got marzipanned,
And puddin’s they got steamed
Mothers they got desperate
And tired kiddies screamed.

Hundredweight’s of Christmas cards,
Went flying through the post,
With first class postage stamps on those,
You had to flatter most.
Within a million kitchens,
Mince pies was being made,
On everyone’s radio,
“White Christmas”, it was played.

Out in the frozen countryside
Men crept round on their own,
Hacking off the holly,
What other folks had grown,
Mistletoe on willow trees,
Was by a man wrenched clear,
So he could kiss his neighbour’s wife,
He’d fancied all the year.
And out upon the hillside,
Where the Christmas trees had stood,
All was completely barren,
But for little stumps of wood,
The little trees that flourished
All the year were there no more,
But in a million houses,
Dropped their needles on the floor.

And out of every cranny, cupboard,
Hiding place and nook,
Little bikes and kiddies’ trikes,
Were secretively took,
Yards of wrapping paper,
Was rustled round about,
And bikes were wheeled to bedrooms,
With the pedals sticking out.

Rolled up in Christmas paper
The Action Men were tensed,
All ready for the morning,
When their fighting life commenced,
With tommy guns and daggers,
All clustered round about,
“Peace on Earth – Goodwill to Men”
The figures seemed to shout.

The church was standing empty,
The pub was standing packed,
There came a yell, “Noel, Noel!”
And glasses they got cracked.
From up above the fireplace,
Christmas cards began to fall,
And trodden on the floor, said:
“Merry Christmas, to you all.”

 

Leave a comment

Filed under The Ramblings of a Reformed Ecclesiastic

Moderator’s Christmas Message

Moderator’s Christmas message

21 December 2014
The Rt Rev John Chalmers
I have a confession to make. Years ago I thought it was role of a Presbyterian minister to be critical of all the excess materialism which pervaded Christmas. So one Christmas Eve in front of packed congregation I had a go at those people who, in my opinion, didn’t pay attention to the real meaning of Christmas and I put the tin lid on it by criticising those who only came to church once a year. That, of course, was half of the congregation and it was the same half that didn’t wish me a happy Christmas at the door of the Church.

I have repented of such foolishness. Now I believe that those who pack our churches on Christmas Eve do so because the power of Christmas still draws them in to hear the story of God, in the life of a tiny baby, breaking through the darkness to bring light into the world. If you’re looking for the real X Factor this Xmas you shouldn’t have to go any further than your local church.

One hundred years ago on the Western Front it was the power of Christmas that punched a hole in the battle between two warring sides. Men climbed out of their trenches, shared their tobacco and chocolate cake and kicked a football on a muddy field. We may have something of a romantic notion of what happened on Christmas Eve 1914 and there were mixed motives for soldiers and officers lowering their guns and extending the hand of goodwill, peace, love and Christmas cheer, but what else than the heart of Christmas could have made even that temporary pause in hostilities happen. Love came down at Christmas and I will continue to pray for a day in the future when goodwill, peace, love and Christmas cheer will breakout across many other hostile fronts.

Come to Church this Christmas. There will be a Watchnight Service near you and Christmas morning service somewhere in the neighbourhood. If it’s got anything to do with me there will be a warm welcome awaiting you and there will be an opportunity for you to put Christ back into Xmas.

Rt Rev John Chalmers
Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland

Leave a comment

Filed under The Ramblings of a Reformed Ecclesiastic

Christmas Eve 1974 (re-blogged)

Christmas Eve 1974

Murder in the Cathedral – well, getting duffed up on the steps of the kirk……..

I went to my first charge in June 1974 – a pleasantly quiet village where most of the excitement at Christmastide was going to look at the lights (green, amber, red, amber, green – hell , this was confusing – but exhilarating)

Anyhow, it was Christmas Eve and my first watch night service as a newly fledged meenister.

I got to the church just as the pub across the road was scaling out (whiff of the barmaid’s apron £1; sook of the spittoon £1.25; half-pint of dregs only £1.30. – I made that up)

Mind you, a few weeks before draped from the window of one of the flats above was a bed sheet with the message: “Happy 27th birthday, Granny”

OK – to our tale of woe: some of the punters from that pub decided that it would be a good idea to rough up our church officer who had asthma.

I managed to get those youths out of the building, but they started to smash up some of the diamond-shaped stained-glass windows.

So this daft wee meenister followed them outside to remonstrate; they then got stuck into me  and hit on the head with an object (at that point, unknown)

The Polis arrived very quickly, and, even though they knew who the miscreants were, were annoyed when I wouldn’t make a statement.

Our Session Clerk, the saintly Dr Tom Burnett (RIP) arrived at the same time as my heavily pregnant wife. Gossip started about a Christmas baby – Matthew was actually born at the beginning of February – but he was actually putting stitches in my head (without anesthetic!)

Then right on time, I stood in the pulpit and preached about peace and goodwill toward all men.

The next day – Christmas morning – I had a 10.30 service – and, before we stated, Davie the Beadle, went to the church safe, and dialed in the code (6-6-6) opened the door  and produced a dented can of Tennant’s lager (for my older friends, these were the heavier metal tins with the ‘Lovelies’ depicted thereon) – the one that had caused me to have three stitches put in my head.

I later enjoyed that can of beer – because it was ………….. Thirst after righteousness – boom boom!

Leave a comment

Filed under The Ramblings of a Reformed Ecclesiastic

The Bells! The Bells!

A story was written (by Raymond MacDonald Alden) in 1906 called “Why The Bells Chimed”

The backdrop to this tale is a church set on a high hill in the centre of a great city in a far-off country.

The church was a magnificent building, but the strangest thing about it was the wonderful chime of bells.

 The belfry was set in a great, grey tower, with ivy growing over it as far up as anyone could see.

 Now, all the people knew that at the top of the tower was a chime of Christmas bells that had hung there ever since the church had been built, bells that sounded like angels high in the pure clean sky.

 It was the custom on Christmas Eve for all the people to bring to the church their offerings to the Christ-child. When the greatest and best offering was laid on the altar, there used to come sounding through the music of the choir the Christmas chimes far up in the tower.

 But for many years they had never been heard, despite the magnificence of the gifts.

 Although the services were splendid and the offerings plenty, only the roar of the wind could be heard, far up in the stone tower.

 Some miles from the city, in a small village, lived a boy named Pedro and his younger brother. They had heard of the service in the church on Christmas Eve, and had a secret plan to go and see the beautiful celebration.

 It was cold and snowy on the day before Christmas, when the two lads slipped quietly out of their home, and started to walk to the city.

 When they were about to enter one of the great gates in the wall that surrounded the city, they came across a poor woman who had fallen in the snow, too sick and tired to get in where she might have found shelter.

 Pedro knelt down beside her and tried to rouse her, by rubbing some snow on her face. But when he had looked at her for a moment, he stood up again and said:

 “It’s no good, Little Brother. You will have to go on alone.”

“Alone?” cried his brother, “And you not see the Christmas Festival?”

 But Pedro insisted.  He said that he would stay with the woman and make sure that she didn’t freeze to death

 Then Pedro added “if you get a chance to slip up to the altar without getting in anyone’s way, take this little silver piece of mine, and lay it down for my offering when no one is looking. Don’t forget where you have left me, and forgive me for not going with you.”

 So it was. Pedro’s little brother went to the service, while Pedro stayed behind, trying to keep the woman warm as she lay in the snow

 The great church was a wonderful place that night. Everyone said that it had never looked so bright and beautiful before and the service and the singing were breathtaking.

 At the close of the service came the procession with offerings to be laid on the altar. Rich men and great men marched proudly up to lay down their gifts to the Christ-child. Some brought wonderful jewels, some baskets of gold so heavy that they could scarcely carry them down the aisle. A great writer laid down a book that he had been working on for years.

And last of all walked the king of the country, hoping with all the rest to win for himself the chime of the Christmas bells. There went a great murmur through the church as the people saw the king take from his head the royal crown, all set with precious stones, and lay it gleaming on the altar as his offering to the holy Child. “Surely.” everyone said, “we shall hear the bells now, for nothing like this has ever happened before.”

 But still only the cold old wind was heard in the tower.

 The procession was over, and the choir began the closing hymn. Suddenly the organist stopped playing, and everyone looked at the old minister who was standing by the altar holding up his hand for silence. Not a sound could be heard from anyone in the church, but as all the people strained their ears to listen there came softly, but distinctly swinging through the air, the sound of the chimes in the tower. Then they all stood up together and stared straight at the altar to see what great gift had awakened the long-silent bells.

 But all that the nearest of them saw was the childish figure of Little Brother, who had crept softly down the aisle when no one was looking, and had laid Pedro’s little piece of silver on the altar.

Leave a comment

Filed under The Ramblings of a Reformed Ecclesiastic

Three Little Boys

Three kids – one Catholic, one Protestant, and the other Muslim- were talking together about Christmas which was only a few days away.

The Catholic boy said,”I love Christmas – but we have to go to Mass on Christmas Eve and it goes on for hours.  By the time my folks have chatted with their friends and had a game of Bingo in the Church Hall (using Roman numerals, of course), we don’t get home until two in the morning and I have to go to bed.  But I get up early, and there are loads of presents – lots of toys; it’s wonderful!”

The Proddy lad said, “I love it too, although my Mum and Dad drag me off to the Watchnight Service at the kirk and the Minister just tells the same old story every year; then the bigger boys and girls (Youth Group) serve terrible coffee and pie things that are full of dead flies (mince pies), then we go home and gather round the Christmas Tree and there are presents – loads of them – toys, games…brilliant!  It’s great!”

 

They turn to the Muslim lad.  “What about you?” they ask, “What do you do at Christmas?”

“Well,” says the wee boy, “My Dad has a toy factory in Bangladesh and he imports sea-containers worth of Christmas toys and games and, oh, all sorts of stuff to be sold at Christmastime…..

…… so, we stay in on Christmas Eve and have a party with dancing and singing”

“What???” ask the two others, “Like Christmas Carols and that?”

“No, no!” answers the wee Muslim laddie, “Our favourite is ‘What a Friend we have in Jesus”

Boom!  Boom!  Bet you’ve heard that one before!

1 Comment

August 20, 2013 · 10:16

THE SIN OF NOT NOTICING

If you visit our larger towns and cities, one thing that strikes you is the number of people begging on the streets.

I used to live near Edinburgh, and walking along Princes Street, I’d lose count of the number of homeless people sitting on the pavement during the day & huddled in shop doorways in the evening looking for handouts.

And one other thing would always strike me – to most of the pedestrians, these folk were invisible!

People going or coming to work, or shopping or having an evening out, didn’t seem to register their existence.

They were just part of the scenery.

I remember one Christmas Eve about twenty years ago. It would be about four thirty in the afternoon, dark and bitterly cold. The window displays in the big shops in Princes Street were bright and filled with expensive yet tempting gifts. Last minute Christmas shoppers were rushing from this store to that trying to track down that elusive present for Uncle Jimmy or Auntie Mary or whomever.

The shoppers were weighed down with carrier bags and gift wrapped parcels. The sound of Christmas carols could be heard through the opening and closing doors of the busy shops.

It was a time for celebration and generosity and giving. It was Christmas time.

And lying on the pavement with his back to the wall of Jenners department store was a bundle of rags. On closer inspection, a down and out.

And these Christmas shoppers in their rush and in their busyness to celebrate the season of giving, walked round him – in fact, I’m sure I saw some of them actually step over him in their hurry.

It would appear that nowadays many are blinkered to the sight of the needy, the wretched, the poor and the outcast. They become, as it were, part of the scenery. We cease to notice them.

That was the sin of the rich man in the story which Jesus told

The rich man didn’t even take in the existence of the poor man, whose name was Lazarus. He was just part of the scenery.

The rich man had not asked for Lazarus to moved from his gate forcibly or otherwise (some city councillors – and, I’m thinking of Edinburgh again – have been known to have the down and outs rounded up and moved from their usual patches, especially at Festival time. That way they don’t offend the tourists. The same happened a few years ago before one of the Olympic games was staged – I think in Mexico City)

No, the rich man didn’t get his servants to move the man away because he was an eyesore.

Nor was he deliberately cruel to him. He didn’t kick him every time he passed. (we may not use physical assault either, but sometimes our words or comments toward those less fortunate than ourselves can hurt and wound “get a job, you lazy scrounger!” or simply, to quote an old saying “the poor will be always with us” and it’s God’s will…..

Do you remember the verse from ‘All things bright and beautiful’? It’s a verse we don’t sing anymore:

“The Rich man in his castle,
The poor man at his gate,
God made them, high or lowly,
And ordered their estate.”

No, the rich man was not deliberately cruel to Lazarus.

His sin was that he never noticed Lazarus, that he accepted him as part of the landscape, that he thought it perfectly natural and inevitable that Lazarus should lie in pain and hunger, while he wallowed in luxury.

The sin of the rich man was that he could look on the world’s suffering and need, and feel not a twinge of grief or pity.

That is a warning to us all. Christ’s parable confronts and threatens all comfortable and indifferent Christians. Whatever we gain, we have by the grace of God.

As we see the world around us, it is possible – even as we profess our faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ – to go on living selfishly in a manner that God ultimately condemns.

How shall we live? According to our own wishes, attending to our every desire? Or according to God’s revealed and stated will?

How shall we decide? Well, perhaps the chilling tale of the rich man and Lazarus may just help concentrate our thoughts and help us in our choice! And so too the words of Christ himself: ‘As you did unto one of these, the least of my brethren, you did unto me.’

Leave a comment

Filed under The Ramblings of a Reformed Ecclesiastic

The Show Must Go On!

Not much should prevent the preacher from taking a service.

I remember reading about a vicar in a lonely rural parish.  His wife died suddenly on Christmas Eve but he still went to his little church on Christmas Day to conduct worship and administer the Sacrament.  Nobody turned up, but, as he had to, he went through the whole liturgy – all on his own

If we are to be truly professional and true to our calling, then we should try to rise above personal circumstances.

My father (aged 62) died in the Western Infirmary in Glasgow early on a Saturday evening. I went back to the family home and stayed until 10 or 11 p.m. Drove the 30 odd miles back to my manse, grabbed a sandwich, and spent half the night preparing a sermon – which I preached during Sunday worship while conducting the service A quick bite and then back down the road to Bearsden.

And I loved my Dad dearly – it wasn’t a case of “couldn’t care less”

I conducted my Mother’s funeral just a handful of years ago.   And wrote the Eulogy for my late wife’s service last June.

I’ve been in the pulpit with a bleeding nose, migraine, flu and a cracked open skull following being beaten up (this was on  Christmas Eve (and there is a post about it on this blog – you’ll find it at 6 May 2012)

Thick-skinned?  Some may say so…. but one is called to spread the Message “in season and out of season”

 

Leave a comment

Filed under The Ramblings of a Reformed Ecclesiastic

Watchight Service

The Meenister’s Log

Just as a colleague began his Christmas Eve Watchnight service, the electricity in the church failed. The elders found some candles and placed them around the sanctuary.

Then my friend re-entered the pulpit, shuffled his notes, and muttered, “Now, where was I?”

A tired voice from the back of the kirk called out, “Right near the end!”

Leave a comment

Filed under The Ramblings of a Reformed Ecclesiastic