On the third Sunday of Advent, I became, along with two others – Jamie and Sidney – a new puppeteer.
That morning, after the Nativity Service led by St Mark’s Church Beaver colony, the children poured into the hall for their Christmas Party – and the centrepiece of the party was a puppet show.
To the sounds of Mary’s Boy Child by Boney M., a group of us, hastily recruited, became puppeteers. I operated a child angel plus the baby Jesus, Sidney took charge of the adult angel, Jamie manipulated, at different times, Mary, Joseph and a sheep. Abigail and John held up the backdrop of the stable at the end. And Sidney and I held up No Vacancies signs at the appropriate time while Jamie and Sidney held up The Bible sign.
Long time ago in Bethlehem, so the Holy Bible said,
Mary’s boy child Jesus Christ, was born on Christmas Day.
Our trainer and director was master puppeteer Fiona Stutton from Thrive Youth Ministries who with great patience and good humour took two evenings to train us to become puppeteers. Fiona operated a singing puppet at the beginning, and followed this with a short session for the children about the true meaning of Christmas, using magic tricks with silk handkerchieves and a bag that mysteriously changed colour. Then it was time for our puppets to perform Mary’s Boy Child.
We all had great fun and learned new skills, Fiona was pleased to have trained some new puppeteers, Ros who organised the party was delighted……..
and, most importantly of all – the children loved it!
Christmas arouses so many emotions.
Magical in childhood, often much more of a challenge in adulthood – which of us are “Ding Dong Merrily On High”, and which of us are “Bah Humbug”?
I love many things about Christmas:
- The anticipation through Advent – Advent candles
- Christmas carols – many of them have the most beautiful words which I find deeply moving;
- Lights – I love fairy lights, candles, Christmas grottoes outside houses
- The Christmas tree with its lights and stars and shining baubles and tinsel is like a warm, friendly presence in the room. For many Christmas starts when the lights on the tree are switched on.
- The story of Christ’s birth surely the most powerful among the world’s stories; full of spiritual resonance, reaching to the heart of the human condition, always relevant to our lives, especially right now, chillingly parallelled by world events today as refugee families flee tyranny and terror
- The words of the prophet Isaiah, who I hold as one of the world’s greatest writers, as did Handel when he chose to set those words to music in “The Messiah“: The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death and For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor,
The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace and He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm,
and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.
- Meaningful rituals and happy remembrance: mince pies, mulled wine, Christmas concerts in country churches; Christmas wreaths on doors; Ghost stories by candlelight; Decorating the Christmas tree; Inviting neighbours in for drinks
- Christmas music of all types – the popular Christmas songs and the Christmas songs written for choirs by John Rutter; O Holy Night, Hope Finds a Way by Jonathan Roberts, Britten’s Ceremony of Carols, O Magnum Mysterium by Marten Lauridsen, Charpentiere’s Messe de Minuit… Many composers have been inspired by the mystery of the Incarnation, to write their most sublime music.
- Trips to Santa grottoes with your children, and the Special Christmas Treat – whether that be to a Winter Wonderland, or to see a special show, or a wonderful pantomime
- Magical memories of when as a child I awoke on Christmas morning and was filled with wonder and awe because, magically, a favourite doll had been dressed as a fairy in a sparkling dress
- Every year, building special memories for your children – the particular times when you always exchange gifts, what you always do on Christmas Eve, the moment when, for you, Christmas really begins; the photo you always take of the children with their lighted Christingles in front of the Christmas tree; the sherry, and mince pie left out for Santa on Christmas Eve together with the carrot for Rudolph
- Charles Dickens’ story A Christmas Carol. Of all his stories I believe this is the most powerful. This story of reflection, repentance and redemption never loses its impact. We have several DVDs of different dramatic version of A Christmas Carol, both live action and animated, and we watch them again and again each year.
Things I mourn for about Christmas:
the focus on excessive eating and the obsession of weight loss classes with how you will “manage” Christmas and the “damage limitation” you are going to do either before or afterwards
the burden of work and giving which falls on certain individuals – or which they choose to take upon themselves – while others seem blessed by the role of always being able to relax and receive
broken and dysfunctional relationships which are thrown into sharp relief by the false expectations thrown up by the advertising industry’s manipulation of society’s attitude to Christmas
the grief caused to people when they perceive themselves as having failed to meet others’ “expectations”
the consumer society seizing the opportunity to make as much money as possible
the pressure that is put on people in a mania to achieve “the perfect Christmas”
the way charities “use” Christmas as a time to ask for more money
The bittersweet remembrance of Christmasses past, spent with the people who have scattered – through death, divorce, marriage, moving on to create new lives of their own, moving far away.