Christmas Thoughts Index Home

Writing in late October, it’s a little difficult to get into the Christmas spirit yet, though one of the highlights of the season I’m looking forward to is already being advertised.  Last weekend I saw a trailer for the third part of the “Lord of the Rings” film trilogy.  We will hopefully be settling down to see this with a group of friends between Christmas and New Year – if I remember, I’ll write some more about my long-term Tolkien fixation in a later issue!  But for now let’s think about other aspects of Christmas.  

When I was a small boy in Glasgow in the early 1960s, the run up to Christmas would begin when with my mother and brother I would go into town to see Father Christmas.  Santa Claus.  Whoever.  This would be in one of the big shops in the middle of the city – I won’t pretend to remember more than a blur of faces, the crush of the crowds, the rattle of the underground trains and the impression of queuing for a long time to have a brief interview with a man in a red suit.  The accent, I may say, was authentically Scottish!  After moving to England the visits to Santa were continued for a few years; these I recall a bit more clearly.  I remember one year receiving an Airfix-style model of a vintage aeroplane from the Santa in Kendals’ department store in Manchester .  Very kind of him, I thought. 

Part of all this would of course include the interview with the great man, and the inevitable questions:  “Have you been good this year?” and “What would you like for Christmas?”  These are questions we sometimes still ask each other as grown-ups.  The first of these normally in jest, the other quite often out of despair!  I am always very relieved when the decisions have been made, the shopping has been done, and we have the last of our gifts bought and wrapped.  There’s no doubt that there  are some people who are easy to buy for, others more difficult.  The person who when asked what they want answers “Oh, I just want to be surprised” is sometimes not just surprised but shocked!

Then there’s the cards!  Who to send to, who to cross off the list?  Who to give another chance to when they didn’t send you a card last year?  Who to take a risk with, and assume they won’t suddenly resume contact!!

So we plan.  We keep a note, or try to, of who sent us cards, what we have given as presents in past years,.  What an embarrassment if someone were to turn round and say, “but that’s what you gave us last time”!  We try not to leave things to the last minute.  It strikes me that shopping on Christmas Eve is one of the most stressful things a human can do.  As if Christmas wasn’t stressful enough already!

 But if you want to see some stress, look at the first Christmas!  The Gospel account tells us about a census, a requirement that Joseph should take his young, pregnant wife to the town of Bethlehem to register.  No booking ahead with a credit card – you had to take your chance with the accommodation when you got there.  And the birth of a child.  Some way from home, no maternity unit to hurry to.  And strange visitors – these shepherds we hear about, rushing down to see this child, a symbol they had been told about in a vision, out in the fields.  A stressful time indeed.

 And yet a blessed time.  For this was when God insisted on resuming communication at Christmas - resuming communication with people who had been ignoring him, not responding.  And this was the ultimate unexpected, surprise present – something people didn’t realise they needed until they had it and recognised it.

I hope Christmas time brings its own, new blessings to all of you.


(c) Copyright Bill Young 2003