The place is familiar. At the end of a summer afternoon the scent of flowers mingles with the smell of barbeques in the back yards. Lavender fills the planters and suede-pink roses drop their huge petals in the lawn.
The welcome hasn’t changed. Floury hands are quickly wiped on an upmarket apron – given last Christmas by the Auntie who has an eye for such things in the boutique craft fairs. But times have changed. The children who flew to seek their adventures in other lands are back. Wedding photos are now of the next generation, baby pictures are now of grandchildren and toys for little ones litter the floor.
“Come in” she says, “Sam will be here in a minute – he’s trying to fix the sail”. She lowered her voice, “silly man, he thinks he’s still 20. I’ve told him to leave it – after all it’s not long since he had that new heart valve – but he’s still stubborn as”.
We’re planning Christmas. The young ones want to do it at their place this year – with the little children and the new baby it’s easier – and they want to have their own traditions, so I’ll not put the tree up here. We are lighting the candles at the Christmas Eve service and we’ll bring the children with us.
We remembered when we had wanted to do Christmas, the stress of not wanting to hurt each lot of parents and having so much angst about whose turn it was this year. Yes, we knew the feelings and now it’s our turn to let go. Strangely it’s not difficult. The festive table has too many gaps now. It’s time for a new generation to take over. “But they want me to make the baked bananas, pavlova and the trifle – mum’s food still holds the memories,” she said with a smile.
We walked through the house. The friendship of the years comes easily as we know each other’s families well. In the lounge the 4 year old is putting the Christmas scene together – the old figures have lasted. Shepherd, Kings and sheep stand at the back with the angels at the front. “The Angels want to see the baby Jesus”, says little Cash. “Can you tell me the story Cash?” and he told it simply, finishing with a flourish “and the baby Jesus is here so everything is made better!” His little sister sings what sounds like “away in a manger” while busily rearranging it.
The Good news is being absorbed by another generation. Later in the evening they listen as we discuss the events around us. Family who are still dealing with the fallout from the earthquakes in Christchurch, looming drought on the farm this year, the cost of getting over to the islands for an unveiling later in the year. We are quiet as we think about Cousin Betty’s family in Greymouth who worked in the mines, the gaps around their table at Christmas as well as the coming wedding.
Their uncle has flown in from London with some amazing toys, (ethical and educational as well of course!) and we listen to the stories of the homeless people and refugees he works with. He tells of his friend caught in the bomb attack in Paris…
All these things have been part of our lives this year and so have the blessings and joys, the bitter sweet of living in our families, our parishes, and our communities.
The star on the crib comes on. It fills the darkening room with soft light.
And we remember that God is with us, in a cradle, in an occupied land, with fleeing refugees, with the farmers and the miners in pain and in our joy, in birth, living and death.
The stories of the Christ Child, tell us that there is more, there is hope which death cannot put out and a peace for the world that will have the last say. That a time will come when our energies are turned from violence to love and when we will hear the angels song and will see in the eyes of the child in the manger, the one who comes among us.
“Yet in thy dark streets shineth, the everlasting Light.
The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight…
We hear the Christmas angels the great glad tidings tell
O come to us, abide with us our Lord Emmanuel”
May the blessing of the Christ Child be with you all as you prepare for this Christmas season.
Margaret Anne Low
Moderator, Northern Presbytery
Printable version: Moderator’s Christmas Letter 2015