I hope that your Christmas has brought wonderful times of peace and joy. On Christmas Eve we took our US family to Ely Cathedral for the 3:00 pm Crib service, which retells the nativity story aided by local children and a donkey. Warned that hundreds of families attend we arrived two hours early in order to park and spend some time in Ely before the big event. However, at first we checked in at the cathedral to be warned that families arrive (very)early in order to find seats close enough to see the action. All of which explains why I was left guarding five empty chairs on the front row right under the soaring Octagon, where the Norman nave suddenly breaks skywards into the fan-light ribs and tall windows of the Lantern high above pillars, arches, stained glass windows of the immense space. Begun in 1083, with new work completed in 1252 the whole structure takes your breath away. Indeed, I was sitting right under what many consider is the greatest piece of fourteenth-century architecture in Britain.
For half an hour few others showed up. In that extraordinary space, with wintry sunshine filtering through the windows I reveled in peace in God's presence. I really did! Oh, the privilege of minutes spent quietly in such a place. An empty manger stood on the raised platform right in front of me. The service sheet had these responses:
-When the world was dark and all was very quiet, You came to be with us.
-You crept in beside us and no-one knew, Lord Jesus, come and be with us this Christmas and always.
With an hour to go children dressed up as shepherds and wise men showed up and quiet fled the place. Excitement grew as a thousand people joined in the carols and heard the ever-fresh story anew. And, of course, excitement continued with two of our grandchildren sharing the next day with us. I loved seeing their worship in the cathedral and their enthusiasm at the gift giving and sharing, especially since they had taken so much trouble to bring wrapped presents for us. Sophie, remembered my love of zebras and the colour purple, and made me a wall hanging with a magnificently drawn zebra under the slogan: Zebra power. Just right for me! The US family also presented us with a photo album of our holiday in 2015 when the whole family enjoyed Minehead. It is impossible not to smile as you turn the pages and see kite-flying, crabbing, castle-visiting and scone-scoffing. So....as I began...I hope your Christmas has given you some moments of peace and joy too.