Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Christmas Carols/Carolling (10/02/08)
TITLE: Ghost of Christmas Past
By Fiona Dorothy Stevenson
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Springtime. Warm, gusty wind and influenza. With washing safely pegged and blowing on the line, I found the strength to pull a few weeds and rake a patch of leaves. Underneath, the wild strawberries clustered dark leaves around bright berries. Without a voice to speak – my throat was jammed with splintered wood – I stroked a congratulation to the Painted Ladies who had at last discovered their fragile beauty to the world around. I looked with longing at the loveliness about me, the tasks that needed to be done, but my small reserve of strength was gone. I wobbled back indoors.
It is time to post the greeting cards to precious people overseas. The cards, the lists, are pushed aside. I cannot concentrate. Lean back; close my eyes … see the faces drift back more than fifty years. The first Christmas of really celebrating the birth of the Savior, of knowing who the Baby was, why He was born. A Christmas that had little to do with geese getting fat or with pennies dropped in an old man’s hat…
The church went caroling on Christmas Eve. It was before the dark days of litigation and of expensive insurance claims. On this and several subsequent years, we hired a flatbed two-ton truck, loaded a pedal-pump organ and thirty or forty stacking chairs. The bodies occupying them would hold them in place. We took our carol books and music and loads of fun and laughter. Our organist doubled as a teacher at a Mission Station out of town. She had a Master’s Degree in Theology. To us she was Anna who played the ‘pianna’ and the young people adored her and teased her.
The pastor phoned the hospitals and aged care homes, arranging a time for us to visit and to sing. We had to leave the truck and organ and walk to the venues. Anna led the singing, using her music book as a baton. We sang up the hills and through the twisting street of the suburbs, stopping at the homes of friends. Last of all, we drove along the main street of town where revelers were gathered on the warm hotel verandahs. Usually this was where we met our best response. Requests were shouted, and sung with cardboard throats and great gusto, the crowd joining in. Pastor Don preached an impromptu gospel of the great Good News from the tailboard of the truck.
It was close to midnight before we wandered home, still singing snatches of the carols, chuckling over incidents of the evening. Then, because this was our tradition, it was time to decorate the house and dress the Christmas tree. There were always many hands to hang the tinsel and ‘snow’ the Christmas tree with cotton wool, to place the presents underneath. We drank a sea of coffee and ate a hill of snacks before our pillows claimed us for an hour or two of sleep.
Christmas day. The faithful came to sing the songs of triumph, to adore the name of Jesus, to salute the happy morn. We shared the gladness of the men of old who beheld the shining star. And we sang the words of Scripture, “..unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given..” while we broke bread at the foot of the tree that became a cross. We bowed the knee to the Lamb of God and sang with the herald angels “All glory to the newborn King!”
At home again, we cut the Christmas cake and sang, “Happy Birthday, Jesus” and opened the gifts from under the tree. Laughter and paper littered the room. Other gifts and other loves took temporary precedence.
Another meal was served. We ate the turkey and the trimmings, the custard and the pud. We took out tea and coffee to easy chairs and somnolence while the children admired and tried their toys or read their books. The radio played a selection of Christmas music. The Spirit stirred among the words of carols, turning our thoughts once more to the feast of bread and wine, the greatest gift of all: the Babe lying in a manger, the Son given that we might have life – abundant life.
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