1000 Words on Christmas

Every Christmas we ask our members to write 1000 Words on Christmas. Below is the Sue Davies‘ submission for this year’s Christmas meeting.

1000 Words on Christmas

Another thousand words about Christmas required! Heavens!
The writers group, I hardly ever manage to get to, sets themes for each meeting, and I recently committed myself to fulfilling the task set whether I manage along or not. It seems a cheat somehow to pay my annual fee of a fiver and roll along every now and then with a poem or two without putting in the hard graft the others do.

I must write at least a thousand words in every five or so Christmas cards alone. My aim always is to have a fountain pen at the ready, a wide choice of beautiful, funny or sparkling cards, warm words to suit the receiver and proclaim the Christmas message  – perhaps a few lines about something I think interesting – all in my best legible handwriting – no-one forgotten or left out. Hmm!

According to a cyber psychologist on the telly last night, we operate best as human beings with one hundred and fifty contacts. Counting the cards I give or receive might be a good way to check that out. What happens with Facebook? Do you just say, ‘Oh I have X hundred friends’ so ‘Happy Christmas to everyone’ copied the exact number of times and Bob’s your Uncle, the job’s a good ‘un’. No of course not. It’s years since I’ve heard anyone say that. It sounds tempting though when I think, in reality, except for the year I wrote them in October, I’ve never got through all the address books, found the slips of paper I’ve scribbled on, sent all the emails or even prioritised far-flung friends and family. Without oodles of organisation all the fascinating people met during the year are lost forever and the lonely and the housebound are still missed out.
My cards, posted early one year, were brought back to me by the postman, unstamped. He thought they must be mine! How did he know that! Another time we had a lot of unexplained phone calls. Turned out they were checking our family status, not unreasonably either, as it had changed a lot in a few years and I had  sent last year’s mislaid cards to save time.

Meanwhile the home remains scattered with unsent or unwrapped presents and each December day brings another birthday I’m late for, or I change my mind about the rightness of a present already bought.

I am sure all the rest of the world knows what they mean by, ‘All ready for Christmas then?’ before Advent has even begun. Maybe they have decided sensibly to reduce the number of presents they buy. There are lots of good ideas going around about how to do that. Or maybe they have planned fewer parties.

But somehow, for me, since I became a believer anyway, through all the clutter and missed opportunities there is always the bewildering amazement, wonder, thrill and joy of thinking this is all about God. God, being a vulnerable baby with no safe clean place to be born, no safe home to remain in, visited by the least regarded in society, who were directed there by the highest authority, and also sought out by the the most weird and loaded of them all, kingly star-gazers!

As a child the most magical Christmas day included a walk up May Hill. A thousand foot hill with a view of seven counties and a ring of pine trees at the top planted in a circle and surrounded by a ditch. This piece of land was given to my village, Longhope, by the parish of May Hill to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Jubilee. That day every blade of grass and every pine needle had become an icicle reflecting the sun in miniature rainbows. The cold was breathtaking and exhilarating, wonderful!

Another equally satisfying Christmas  was spent at Crisis Christmas in Edinburgh, a charity, where we were allowed to volunteer and meet properly some of the people who have met with misfortune severe enough to need support from such a charity; one working for the homeless. And of course there was a variety of people and backgrounds all willing to make the most of the day with hope for improvement in their future situation.

The Christmas I imagine I crave, although everything I do mitigates against it, is one of peace, quiet, reflection, beauty, stillness and harmony. Often we are shattered, sodden with devastating revelations that Christmas seems to prompt or the tiredness brought on by nocturnal activities required when the children are young – or old for that matter!

I love all the lights, sparkle, magic of Christmas good will and sharing time and presents with people I love. Who wouldn’t, these are precious, privileged times. But I remember as a child,  even with all these things being part of my life,  feeling an emptiness, usually in the afternoon – the effects of it all being nearly over?- maybe?- but maybe not.

Surely all the impressive variety of nativity plays, carols, cards, inventive celebrations, efforts of charities and ‘instructions to write a thousand words for Christmas’, whatever you believe, must be based on something real?

However all this theorising is detracting from one of the five days I have left to wrap, write, visit and party! Pity I won’t make the writer’s evening. I’ll be practising for the Heriot Watt Carol Celebration. Maybe the account of God being with us in our world from the gospel of Luke will be read, as it was once, by a Nigerian student, with such joy  and conviction in his voice that   everybody there was affected. That will revive us all!

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