WE SURVIVED! That seems an awful thing to say about such an awesome, stupendous occasion - our great celebration of our Lord and King's birth. I always imagine an earthly kingdom with all the pomp and ceremony, planning and preparation, feasting and extravagance which accompany a king's visit. And of course that is what Christmas is all about, really.
But, as I reflected a couple of days ago, this joyful occasion has become tainted with selfish expectation, and I was no exception, I had grieved and worried over the 'loss' of my children, just on this one day of the year.
Ridiculous, now, in retrospect. Because WE.HAD.A.GOOD.GREAT.DAY. Hallelujah!
And I am so grateful to God for changing the heart of this woman who, on Christmas Eve morning, had been lying on the floor of her bathroom, crying and praying for a change of heart. A move away from selfishness to thankfulness.
And He did. He worked a miracle.
It began on Christmas Eve as I drove around dropping off miniscule tokens of appreciation for friendship. In very busy lives, I had forgotten the gift of these wonderful people in my life and it was good to reconnect. And how good it was to bless just a couple of hard-working people with a little money. Next year I will be more intentional and organised. Our poverty here is hidden, but many people work two or more menial jobs for long hours in order to make ends meet. (At the other end of the scale, there are those who think nothing of paying hundreds of thousands for a car, or on an extra garage...) And I was able to do a very small errand (introducing my neighbour to the wonders of the Turkey Roasting Bag) and build on a relationship with these marvellous people next door.
But it was Christmas Day which was so excellent. Waking early - in spite of going to midnight communion, greeting a few friends, singing the well-known carols - we sipped coffee and prepared to Skype with Cat and her new family in New Zealand. We chatted for half an hour with her and Andy and his parents, reflecting anew how very blessed she is (and we, too) to have such very nice people as in-laws. God has been SO good to us in our children's marriages and we love their spouses, parents and family as if they were our own. We could have talked longer, (often it is an hour or so), but it was late in the evening for them....
....and time to go surfing. I hummed and haaed - cold water is not my favourite - but put an extra layer under my wetsuit, donning boots and gloves as well, braving the waves with my bodyboard. And it wasn't cold at all, especially as the air, on getting out of the water, was mild, but tremendous fun.
Then, as we opened presents from our children and each other - thoughtful, intensely practical (and Richard did a trick we have done before of giving each other similar items because we both recognised the need for them in our lives) - an unexpected phone call. Our friend Danny, son of our beloved home help 'Cookie' who became another mother for me as I grew up. She was the most wonderful, generous person, always looking out for those in need and loving us all as deeply as if we were her own children. It has been wonderful to keep in touch with Danny and his wife - a relationship that goes back 60 years now - and to hear his news.
Then Chris and Kareena came round for lunch. We enjoyed the enormous shared feast - leftovers for the week, at least.
And in the middle, more Skype chats with Jonny and Adele, and then my lovely brother and his family.
New Year's Resolution: more Skype time, more real time where possible, more communication. More love.
The story of Christmas. How amazing that God even CHOSE to communicate with us. How marvellous the ways in which He does so. And how breathtaking, stunning and awesome the means with which He communicates with his people, whoever and wherever we are.
Even with a silly, selfish woman weeping on a floor.