Tag Archives: christmas
Extract from “Cider with Rosie” by Laurie Lee
Mile after mile we went, fighting against the wind, falling into snowdrifts, and navigating by the lights of the houses. And yet we never saw our audience. We called at house after house; we sang in courtyards and porches, outside windows, or in the damp gloom of hallways; we heard voices from hidden rooms; we smelt rich clothes and strange hot food; we saw maids bearing in dishes or carrying away coffee cups; we received nuts, cakes, figs, preserved ginger, dates, cough-drops and money; but we never once saw our patrons.
Eventually we approached our last house high up on the hill, the place of Joseph the farmer. For him we had chosen a special carol, which was about the other Joseph, so that we always felt that singing it added a spicy cheek to the night.
We grouped ourselves round the farmhouse porch. The sky cleared and broad streams of stars ran down over the valley and away to Wales. On Slad’s white slopes, seen through the black sticks of its woods, some red lamps burned in the windows.
Everything was quiet: everywhere there was the faint crackling silence of the winter night. We started singing, and we were all moved by the words and the sudden trueness of our voices. Pure, very clear, and breathless we sang:
|‘As Joseph was a-walking
He heard an angel sing;
‘This night shall be the birth-time
Of Christ the Heavenly King.
He neither shall be born
In Housen nor in hall
Not in a place of paradise
But in an ox’s stall …..
And two thousand Christmases became real to us then; The houses, the halls, the places of paradise had all been visited; The stars were bright to guide the Kings through the snow; and across the farmyard we could hear the beasts in their stalls. We were given roast apples and hot mince pies, in our nostrils were spices like myrrh, and in our wooden box, as we headed back for the village, there were golden gifts for all
An old Russian tale tells of Prince Alexis
He lived in a luxurious palace, while all around him the peasantry existed in squalor, poverty, and misery.
Alexis was moved with compassion at their plight, and wanted to help in some way.
He left his luxurious surroundings, and walked amongst them, but he had no point of real contact. They were in awe of him, and treated him with great deference and respect.
Therefore, he could not win their confidence or affection.
His visit to them proved futile, and he returned to the palace, a defeated and disappointed man.
Some time later, a very different man came among the people. He was rough and ready, with no airs or graces. He was a doctor who wanted to devote his life to helping the poor.
He rented a vermin-infested shack, and lived amongst them. He wore old and tattered clothes. He ate plain, simple, peasant food, and, most times, he did not know where his next meal would come from.
He made no money because he treated the people free, and gave away his medicines.
Consequently, he won great respect and was loved by the people in quite a different way to their Prince, Alexis.
He was one of them. And he managed to transform the place. Not only did he minister to them as their doctor; he also settled quarrels and reconciled enemies. He helped make better lives.
Eventually, of course, his secret was discovered. The doctor was none other then Prince Alexis himself. Alexis had deliberately abandoned the palace and gone down to the people and lived amongst them……to fully identify with them in their need and in their suffering, in order to help them and make their lives happier and stronger.
Jesus said ‘I have come to give life, life in all its fullness, life in abundance.’ In Jesus Christ, God left his lofty heavenly home, to come down into the human condition – to be like us – to be for us and with us…..God Incarnate….Emmanuel…..whose coming we greet at this Holy time.
Charles Dickens has influenced the way we celebrate Christmas in so many ways.
His 1843 masterpiece, “A Christmas Carol”, influenced our Christmas customs and created many new Festive traditions.
His description of the season recaptured the spiritual elements of the Grand Miracle.
One of the characters says: “It is a good time: a kind and forgiving, charitable, pleasant time: the only time I know of in the long calendar of the year when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut up hearts freely, and to think of other people below them as if they really were fellow-passenger to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.”
None of us want to be seen as a grumpy, stingy Scrooge. It is really a book about redemption as God comes and shows Ebenezer just what a misery-guts he has become. His whole life is transformed and through it our celebration reaches down to transform us too.
Scrooge is totally altered on the inside and begins to express his newfound faith outwardly by sharing his wealth with his employee’s family and provides for the medical treatment of their son Tiny Tim.
It is a wonderful story for children and adults who need to know that a person can be changed by the power of the Spirit at any age.
Other people also influenced the revival of our Merry Christmas celebrations. Prince Albert brought the German custom of decorating the Yuletide Tree to Britain.
Christmas cards were invented for people who had new jobs due to the Industrial Revolution.
The singing of Christmas Carols developed as ordinary people formed a market for songs that could be harmonized.
And we need to point out that the mighty influence of the Wesleyan Revival brought about a more Scripturally based and celebratory expectancy as the days toward Christmas grew closer.
Christmas became a time when the Spirit of God could bring new life to the many would-be Scrooges. A sense of great expectation has become a real part of our celebrations.
Great Expectations are an integral part of our New Testament story of the coming of Christ.
There had not been a prophet of Israel for hundreds of years and the people longed for a fulfilment of the Old Testament’s apocalyptic vision of a Messiah.
They first had hopes that John the Baptist was the Messiah, but although he was a charismatic and popular preacher who was well received, he made a quick disclaimer that one much greater than him was coming soon as the Messiah. “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with power.” proclaimed John.
Another Dickens novel, Great Expectations, tells the story of the young man Pip who longs to someday rise up out of poverty and become an English Gentleman. Pip finally receives a large sum from a will and is able to realize his longed for dream.
Dickens captures the experience of longing, expectation, eager anticipation, intense desire and hope that is such a great aspect of our Advent/Christmas spirit of soon- to-be fulfilled promises.
Pip’s great expectations are presented by Dickens as another aspect of the Christian process of redemption. We have to see our need for salvation before we can have it.
Likewise, Ebenezer Scrooge came to realize that his sin was separating him from his fellow human beings, and his God, and was given a life changing desire for new life and redemption.
The Christmas season is a time of heightened awareness of just how much we need God in our lives and a reminder of how He has sent His Son to save us. The Christmas story is the story upon which all other stories hang.
And what greater way to begin the greatest story ever told than with a baby? Everybody loves a baby!
God used a baby as a way of showing us that new life creates new life. The old miser Scrooge was given new life through the new life that Jesus brought into our realm. And what greater expectancy do we experience than during the nine months that we await the arrival of a precious little child?
We all have great expectations – thank God they are fulfilled by the baby of Bethlehem and the Risen and Reigning Christ who satisfies all our needs and answers all our desires.