Have yourself a funny little Christmas
It was always going to be a funny sort of Christmas for us. The first time in 38 years that I haven’t been involved in leading services, preaching, celebrating the Eucharist, or all of the above. The first Christmas ever in our new house, after 25 Christmases in our last home - which was the longest time that either of us has spent in one home in our lives. The first Christmas in a home that we own, rather than a parental home, a rented home, or a tied cottage AKA clergy house. A Christmas, frankly, of grieving for the church we loved, and the friends we love and have had to leave behind there.
It was a quiet Christmas too, because in many of the years after the children left home, and especially when Alison had been ordained so that we were both involved in taking services, we got into the habit of not seeing the family on Christmas Day itself. They would often go to the in-laws on Christmas Day, while we had our own family gathering around the New Year.
This year we joined with other members of the congregation here in the parish church where we worship, to make Christingles on the evening before Christmas Eve. The Christingle services are the mega-events on Christmas Eve: this year they increased the number from two to three to meet the demand, and reckoned that 1400 people attended in all. It was such a relief to me that I didn’t have to go to any of them. We also didn’t attend the Midnight service, and only joined in the 10 a.m. on Christmas Day. It wasn’t altogether satisfactory. The first 40 minutes or so were billed as a ‘Family Celebration’, which amounted to a Service of the Word with only one reading, (so, not much of The Word in it), some carols, a quiz and a talk, followed by an add-on Communion for those who wanted to stay. It is, after all, supposed to be a Day of Obligation for Anglicans, though I don’t suppose many people even believe in that kind of thing any more.
It was great to go on from church to spend the day with Naomi and family, so we didn’t have to come home and be on our own. That used to be fine when we were so exhausted by all the Christmas services that we only wanted to collapse in a heap. When we were in the parish, I used to think it was a good year when Christmas fell on a Sunday: it meant fewer services over the whole season. But when you’re just an ordinary member of the congregation, and Christmas is just a regular Sunday, it almost feels like Christmas hasn’t really happened.
So, it’s been a funny little Christmas. And the joy has continued to be well tempered with mourning.