On the evening of Christmas Eve some wanted another service (led by a deacon) but the majority left after a brief worship to sing carols in the neighbourhood. Many of the congregation lived nearby and to my delight not only did we make a joyful (fairly tuneful) noise together but many people came out of the houses to join in with us. We don't seem to sing carols in big groups outside the church much nowadays. I still have a copy of the brightly coloured Bethlehem carol sheets we used. It was an eye-opener how much we were welcomed. Eventually, hoarse, we returned for mince-pies and coffee.
The next day began early Before the short service several of us went to lead a brief service at West Bank. The seniors were just finishing breakfast. We came in with Father Christmas (a more or less willing deacon), sang, prayed and gave out gifts to these dear folk. I used to visit this home regularly, as did several church members, and it seemed appropriate to make their Christmas morning special too.
Moving onto a full church, packed with families and favourite toys, I experienced a tradition which continued throughout my ministry - children showing me gifts that had been hand-picked by parents to cause merriment and sometimes, embarrassment. Presents that I had no idea how to operate or really shouldn't have tried. But, the most wonderful part was the full-throat ed singing and celebration that Jesus has come, is with us. There was so much joy.
Because this coincides with Christmas 2018 let me repeat one of the prayers I wrote:
Our Father, thank you for the glory that shone around the shepherds - ordinary, humdrum people like ourselves, doing their routine jobs. We thank you for the excitement and keenness of their response to the good news of Jesus and we remember the fear which drove them to their knees. May we be like them this Christmas, in the humdrum, worshipping with reverence and keenness.
We thank you for the star that guided the wise men - giving help and clarity to their journey. We thank you for the wisdom you have granted us and for the source of all true wisdom about yourself - the baby Jesus revealing your love. May we be like the wise men, prepared to follow your guiding truth.
We thank you for the baby, whose destiny was to change this world of darkness and ignorance. Who said he is the Light of the World and who died to make sure the Light would never go out, but burn brighter and brighter. Let our worship we bright and joyful today.
In the brightness of your glory we worship you, through our Lord Jesus. Amen.