We have been receiving duplicated newsletters from many friends this month. Invariably they begin with such words as ‘once again the time has come round for us to bring you up to date with what’s been happening to us’. So we get news of family events, some sad, some triumphant, all important to the writers as they review another year of their life.
In the last few weeks over 7,000 people have visited these blogs. Most perhaps have been people who are getting on in years as I am, and for such people Christmas can be a time of indulgence as we remember events that often go far back into our childhood. Whilst new experiences will be celebrated, inevitably older ones will be cherished too.
I have vivid memories of my childhood Christmases, my father working until Christmas Eve and then bringing home the turkey from Smithfield in the City of London, later to be matched by a side of ham which would be my grandpa’s contribution to Christmas lunch (with his anticipated comment ‘m-m-m, alright but not as good as last year’).
I remember some of the presents – the smaller ones opened in bed from pillowcases full of gifts sneaked in whilst my sister and I were asleep and the big ones like the steam engine one year, which provided endless pleasure for the adults who thought it too dangerous for me to operate alone.
I often meet people for whom Christmas is a bitter prospect because of the death of someone who shared happier times through the years. It has been a sad year for my family, with two significant deaths and old friends battling with illness, all reminding us that life is transitory. Alongside such personal loss, the appalling violence and sectarian hatred in Africa and the Middle East has saddened me as the duplicity and ineptness of politicians has angered me. It has not been a particularly good year, and it’s understandable that old memories can prove more sustaining than recent ones.
However, in September our youngest daughter and her partner became the parents of a dear little boy and he will be at the centre of our family Christmas this year. My wife and I were at a Carol Service last Sunday and when we heard the words ‘Unto us a child is born’, there was a new resonance to those familiar words and a breath of renewed hope.
So for any who may read this, may your Christmas go well, and may there be justice and peace on earth and all its peoples.