Pause for Thought – a five minute read – Week 32

Luke 2 v 1 – 5

The First Noel

I am reclining in my conservatory with the log burner blazing away listening to my radio. The newscaster is telling us of the slight relaxation to the COVID restrictions that will be introduced over the Christmas period. The radio announcer came on and proclaimed that it would be a different Christmas this year, not the usual festive experience that we are accustomed to. His statement left me a little puzzled because the festive experience has been a gradual change for me as years have gone by. Recent festive experiences are a far cry from those when I was 6 or 7 years old in the mid 1950’s.

To ascertain just how different, I telephoned my two sisters, (both are older than me), and had a long conversation with each of them about our recollections of Christmas past.

It would start when dad brought down the boxes of Christmas decorations from the loft. We had the same artificial Christmas tree for years. I think mum and dad bought it before any of the children were born and it was still being brought out in the 1960s.

The tree was a brown and green twisted wire sculpture with green paper pine needles and a red dot at the end of the branches. As the wire branches were folded up to go into storage, when they were unfolded the tree took on an irregular shape with its boughs pointing in different directions. The tree decorations were a little unusual, a toy car, (a Jowett Javelin bought the year I was born), a battered and forlorn fairy on the top, and a selection of home- made paper lanterns and paper chains.

The room decorations were also ancient and came out every year. They were paper and folded up like a concertina then opened to span from the light in the centre of the room to the four corners. Some opened into a ball and they dangled down from the light.

Christmas dinner was always exciting and special. Dad had a secret admirer who, every year, left a turkey or Capon (a large chicken) on our front doorstep. We never did discover who it was.

Dad would take it down to the cellar where it was cooler until mum could prepare it. My sister recalled that one year there was a commotion in the cellar because the bird was not dead and woke up to run round and make a fuss. It still appeared on the table on Christmas Day.

The turkeys were not dressed or oven ready prepared, they came complete with heads, feet and feathers. Mum would sit in the back room with a blanket on the floor and spend hours plucking the feathers off the bird and burning the stubble off with a candle. I don’t believe that mum could cut the head and legs off so I assume dad must have done that.

Christmas Day was special and magical. We would all congregate on mum and dad’s bed and have a sock and a pillar case. In the sock there would be an apple, an orange, some nuts and a sixpence, (half a shilling or two and a half pence), and in the pillar case would be our presents, some bought and some home made by mum and dad. Any larger presents were left by Santa downstairs. I would charge downstairs to see if Santa had eaten the mince pie I left for him the night before and sure enough, only the crumbs remained.

We always had to have something new to wear on Christmas Day. My sisters had a new dress or skirt and blouse often made by mum and I would have new trousers or shirt. We had to look smart on Christmas Day even if we didn’t go out anywhere.

Then dad would light a fire in the front room, possibly the only time a fire was lit in there, and the house would start to smell of cooking as mum prepared dinner which was always great. There was always great excitement when we got to the Christmas pudding. Who would get the sixpence wrapped in greaseproof paper hidden in the white sauce? I think we all got one.

The one thing that has never changed and will not change even with COVD restrictions is that Jesus Christ came into our world to save us from our sin and offer us everlasting life.

It is not important if the tree changes, or if the decorations festooned across the room are different, or if the illuminations in the garden are more or less extravagant than last year. It’s not even important if the presents reach Santa via Amazon or the internet.

What is important is that the child born in the stable, into poverty, a King humbled from a palace into a manger, will grow into the saviour of the world. This is the good news that Christmas brings.

Perhaps next year we will be able to resume the festive experiences that we are accustomed but let’s not forget that which never changes.

The turkey or Capon was delivered anonymously for about four or five years, then suddenly stopped. Perhaps the sender realised they had got the wrong address.

Derek T.