So here's part 1.
- Christmas Eve: huge crowd at the Crib Service at 4.00 - People Who Know say it was at least 400 and while I know it's not all about numbers, it was great that I knew a high proportion of the children who appeared, complete with tinsel and tea-towels, so that we could put together a living crib at the same time as we built the static version. St M's has a lot of lee-way to make up in terms of connection with the community, and services like this suggest we are beginning to manage it: lots of good-will about the place.Baby Jesus was on cracking form, sitting up and smiling at everyone throughout...another couple of months and I suspect he would have been waving to his public, so it's possibly just as well that we switched calendars when we did! The service proper must have lasted all of half and hour, but afterwards there was a constant stream of families past the crib to rearrange the scene and count the camels.
- After that, a random collection of enthusiasts decamped to one of the nearby hotels, where we'd been invited to sing carols for the guests. In previous years, we've been arranged tidily in a corner of the foyer and left to get on with it, but this year we were wheeled into a large function room and found an audience of some 150. I really struggle with the idea of people choosing to spend Christmas in an hotel, but nobody here seemed overcome with self-pity and misery, - indeed, they were all very jolly and a good proportion of those who promised to join us at worship over the next 24 hours actually did so, - which made certainly made the curate smile.
- Home for family music: all the things we have to play and sing on Christmas Eve, and the essential Christmas books too. Does anyone else out there share our devotion to The Good Little Christmas Tree? Since I'm still reading it now that HG has flown the nest as far as uni at least, it seems highly probable that it will still be required when she and her brothers are in their fifties. Tradition!
- Midnight Mass: just lovely, really! Full church, great singing and the sermon (on pondering- inspired by a conversation with Maggi) went down really well, even though the PA system gave up on me and I had to project for England. Walking home together through the silent streets it was all blissfully and utterly real.