Thursday, 24 December 2020

Christmas Eve: Nativity Scene: Hazel Richardson


Hazel writes:

Here is a photo of our nativity scene. At first it had no shepherds, which bothered me, so I eventually bought one - although it doesn't quite match!
I think we got it for our first Christmas in Belgium, in 1990. Our youngest daughter, who was six at the time, used to wind me up by seeing how often she could surreptitiously swap the baby and the lamb without me noticing, and collapse into fits of giggles every time she caught me out. It eventually occurred to me one year that it maybe wasn't such a terrible thing after all though, because the baby was the Lamb of God, after all. (This went on for many years, by the way - in fact it's become a tradition, and she still does it at least once every Christmas!!)

Christmas Eve: Advent Reflection: The Revd Erna Stevenson


Well, the time is finally here.  It is Christmas Eve. Not as we expected, but it is here.  One of my early Christmas memories goes back to my childhood, when on one Christmas Eve I got to play the angel in our home Nativity play. I had my long white nightdress on and even had  the obligatory wings made out of twisted wire and covered with white sheets. I remember it especially, because this time I had actually, got some words to say: “Glory to God in the highest  heaven...” Up till then my only ‘stage appearance’ was in a school play, which was a non-speaking role. I was a rose tree stood at the side of the stage. The tree started off a perky, well-growing, flourishing plant and gradually, through the play it wilted and eventually died. You can imagine what a demanding role that was! It didn’t occur to me then that I was actually enacting a great metaphor of life. 

But back to the angel. Angels had a busy time in my childhood      Christmases even apart from our Nativity Play. According to our family    tradition they were the ones who brought the presents and put them      under the tree. They were also the ones, who – during Advent –   secretly deposited small amounts of change in the pantry so that we, the children, with no other means, could have some money for the presents we wanted to give. We called it angel-money.

The Angels have started even earlier this year as they have brought the    loveliest present to my family on 28th November in the shape of a baby boy, called Marcell. He was born to one of my nephews and his wife and within a few hours of the arrival of this little bundle of joy, the good news and his pictures traveled thousands of miles to take the good news to faraway relatives.


The Angels were just as busy around the time of Jesus’ birth according to the biblical birth narratives. In Luke’s Gospelit is their announcement that sends  the shepherds to see and adore the new born child. There is something miraculous about every new birth at the best of times, and it was particularly so in Jesus’ time, when infant mortality rate was very high and a successful pregnancy was counted a double blessing. But even today it is not something people close to the event, would takefor granted. After nine months of joy and anxiety and careful nurturing by the mother’s body, the baby is finally ready to come out and start a new phase of life, which will be nothing like what has gone before. It is a joyful though traumatic experience to both mother and child.

We celebrate and rejoice and give thanks but do not know what the future may hold for the new baby. But celebrating Jesus’ birth we do know. Our joy holds together birth and cross and re-birth. It is beautifully expressed in Mark Greene’ poem used in the LICC Chistmas cards:


Christmas Promise.


                                                This baby, this God, my God, Mary's son,                                                                             Did not come as an artist's impression,                                                                               Oil on canvas, tempera on wood,
                                                but from the womb: bone, brain, heart, blood.
                                                Came to show that this life,
                                                Come what may, come what came to him...                                   

                                                A country life: brothers, sisters, festivals, friends,
                                                Hands calloused working wood and stone; and then
                                                Temptation, betrayal, slander, shame,
                                                Whip, nail, spittle, pain,
                                                All evil's weight, and breath-taking death... 

                                                This life, my life, any life could, with him,
                                                 be full, rich, free,
                                                Come what comes, as he intended it to be. 

                                                Christmas is a promise,
                                                The divine guarantee of this possibility:
                                                God with us day by day in our humanity,                                                                             Heaven-scented with the pledge of eternity.


A very Happy Christmas to All


Christmas Eve: Editor's Note

                                                                          Manse Crib

On this Christmas Eve I want to say a big 'thank you' to everyone who has written for the blog, contributed articles or sent in nativity scenes.  It's been great to 'journey' together through these Advent days.

In four weeks the blog has received over 1500 hits, that's 50 a day!  None of it would have been possible without your contributions.

I hope you have a happy and blessed Christmas.


Wednesday, 23 December 2020

Wednesday 23rd December 2020: Nativity Scene: Christine Standring


AFC Nativity taken by Christine from The Choir

Wednesday 23rd December 2020: Advent Reflection: Janet Reid


Well it may be Advent, the season of waiting for the coming of Jesus, but waiting has been a bit of a theme this year hasn’t it.  Waiting to be allowed out of our houses for more than an hour at a time, waiting for the churches to be allowed to open, waiting to see if planned holidays can go ahead, waiting for a vaccine, and in our family waiting to see if a wedding, originally planned for July and rearranged four times, could finally go ahead last week.  Well it did, and we gave thanks and celebrated as my son and his American fiancĂ©e finally became husband and wife at the historic Guildhall in Windsor on Saturday, in a ceremony which was streamed across the Atlantic and to other parts of the UK for family and friends unable to be there.

 Waiting doesn’t have to be an inactive time though.  Revd Debbie in her Thought for the Day on Radio Christmas last week, talked about the solace to be found in a garden – I share that thought – our garden looked better this year than it has for some considerable time.  Many have discovered new skills and interests, or re-kindled existing ones while they wait for normal life to resume, and that has to be a positive thing.  For older or more vulnerable people, this time of waiting has been a lonely one, but in towns and villages all around, people have come forward to help out – keeping an eye out for them, delivering shopping, having conversations at the end of driveways or simply picking up the phone.

 Others have put their waiting time to good use too.   Marcus Rashford, the Manchester United footballer, did not sit idly at home while he was unable to play football matches.  Before lockdown he had been campaigning for those affected by child poverty, and once lockdown was in place he quickly realised the implications for children whose schools were closed and who no longer had access to free school meals.  He used every means at his disposal to campaign for the nearly four million children in this country who were found to be at risk of food poverty, and the cause has snowballed in recent months, with extra funding now available for food and household bills for the poorest families.


This year Radio Christmas broadcasting up until Christmas Eve, is all about fundraising for the poorest children and families in Guatemala and Honduras.  The volunteers working there for Street Kids Direct, have worked tirelessly for a better future for them and to raise awareness globally of the plight of those considerably less well off than most of us.

 So, the waiting for our family was finally over with that wedding in Windsor last week.  As we emerged into the fading light into the outside world we were faced with a large display of the nativity – behind a glass screen and well lit.  The children immediately asked if they could go to see baby Jesus and rushed over to it, followed rather more sedately by the adults.  As I Iooked at that scene, with a rather elderly looking baby Jesus it has to be said, I reflected on the day.  We might have spent a lot of time waiting;  we are still waiting to celebrate his birth at  Christmas, but during that waiting we have not been idle.  When we returned home, I looked at the photographs that we’d taken.  In the reflection in the glass surrounding that nativity scene, very faintly visible were our own images.  We were and are part of that story.  Christians believe that Jesus came into the world to show us how to live, and this Advent time, so near now to the birth of our Saviour, may we show his love by our words and actions while we wait.

 A very Happy Christmas to you all.

Tuesday, 22 December 2020

Tuesday 22nd December 2020: Nativity Scene: Ian and Rachel Green

An African 'all in one' scene from Tanzania


Tuesday 22nd December 2020: Advent Reflection: Bryan Long

'Why should the devil have all the best tunes'  asked the Methodists towards the end of the 18th century, as they began to enjoy hymn singing, and the founder of the Salvation Army made the same comment in the 1880's.

So, what do we make of this in store poster campaign running in John Lewis stores during Christmas ? Is it a case of 'how dare they, that is our patch ? ' Or might we gently nod in semi-approval, it must be good that people are are getting a little close to some of those things we church people have been saying for some time. We might say that the more people approach the big things in life, then the better for all of us, more the merrier indeed !

They are not bad calls in this poster. Who can deny that more thoughts about people can lead to wider perceptions, or that giving more time to people can bring more understanding about each one of us ?  No one can dispute that when we are touched in these ways, then big differences in how we live can follow ?

But what is missing from this poster, and the important things which it is not suggesting ?

We want to talk about the time of Advent, when we wait for the coming of the Lord, for things coming and things promised. We want to talk about the themes we find in these days of waiting, those of hope, peace, joy and love. We can celebrate a life found in the manger in Bethlehem, and then think on a sacrifice made on a cross.

And, by the way, we are thinking of so much more love, more than just a
little more !


Christmas Eve: Nativity Scene: Hazel Richardson

  Hazel writes: Here is a photo of our nativity scene. At first it had no shepherds, which bothered me, so I eventually bought one - althoug...