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Reform Magazine | September 22, 2020

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On the pilgrim way: ‘Celebration was working its magic yet again’

Sheila Maxey revisits the magic of celebration

We always bring in the New Year in Lincolnshire, with Kees’ brother, Tom, and Tom’s wife, Anna. Because their mother was Dutch, the celebration involved drinking mulled wine, eating oliebollen (Dutch doughnuts) and setting off fireworks. Tom and Anna used to live in the country, and I loved the gentle squabbling of the brothers over bursts of stars into the huge, dark sky. The couple have since moved into the town – but I miss the brothers’ boyish excitement and the midnight intake of breath as rockets soared into the sky.

Last Christmas, in our local church, 30 of us gathered for our 40th of a special kind of Christmas celebration. It began when Tony, a fellow church member, had the vision of something more than a party or a service that would capture the magic of Christmas. The event begins with a brief presentation of the meaning of Christmas. We then go out and sing carols in a nearby street, returning for a splendid supper with mulled wine, followed by cabaret, a game or two, a dance and some disco. Lastly, we move upstairs into the candlelit church for closing worship. Between 50 and 60 people used to attend, finishing at 11pm. Church people always brought friends from other churches or from no church.

Tony is now 86 but was still central to planning the 2017 celebration. Stan (85) mulled the wine and I, being a mere 79, organised the event, with two excellent, somewhat younger helpers. We started and finished earlier than previous years, and simplified the supper to soup and dessert. The cabaret, and the energy to erect and put away the tables and chairs, were imported from Cardiff in the form of Tony’s son and his musical family. We walked more slowly to our carol-singing destination to allow for Margaret (85) – who uses a walker, and others with sticks, to keep up. But we still had the thrill of little children coming to the door, a baby being brought to an upstairs window to listen to us and people choosing their favourite carol. I saw the two 90 year olds enjoying both the dancing and the game, and, as I lit candles upstairs, I heard the sound of dancing and laughter. Celebration was working its magic yet again.

Unfortunately, the younger generations in the church have not caught this particular vision and I, for one, reached the absolute limit of my energy. Times change. I treasure so many memories – but, in particular, that time of quiet reflection at the end of the evening, sitting in our beautiful, candlelit church, singing ‘O Holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray; cast out our sin and enter in, be born in us today.’

However, the prophet Isaiah seems to be speaking a timely word to me now: ‘Stop dwelling on past events and brooding over days gone by. I am about to do something new; this moment it will unfold. Can you not perceive it?’ (Isaiah 43:18,19)

Sheila Maxey is Book Reviews Editor for Reform

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This article was published in the February 2018 edition of  Reform

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