Christmas Cheer

Christmas started officially chez IsobelandCat on Sunday.

More for the Isobel part than the Cat bit.

Each year, on the Sunday before Christmas, I attend the service of Nine Lessons and Carols at St Bartholomew the Great, in the City of London.
For those of you who don’t know it, it’s the church where Hugh Grant didn’t get married in Four Weddings etc. As a venue, it’s dramatic, beautiful and atmospheric. The choir is semi-professional. Sometimes a group of us meet up in The Rising Sun close by and swap cards and gifts before we go and sing our hearts out. Our numbers vary; I’ve gone alone, and as part of a group of twelve.

Last year, the service contributed significantly to my laryngitis as I couldn’t resist singing.

On Sunday, four of us met up, and sat in the draughty south aisle close to the Christmas tree. The Director of Music was absent. Stranded in Madrid. With some of the music. The organist was similarly geographically challenged. So not all the music was quite as it appeared in the order of service. There was the occasional overloud contribution from the organ. But the whole effect was as wonderful, as magical and awe-inspiring as ever.

I had a religious upbringing; my mother wanted to be a missionary but married my father instead. Christian teachings remain dear to me, but I cannot really say I believe. However, each year, when I listen to the singing of the choir, the lessons, and the gradual build up to the birth of the Christ child, I am struck again by the beauty and simplicity of the story; a story that promises a fresh start, an innocent babe, born in a stable, symbol of all we might be, if only we dared, and I feel joy, exultation and a renewed hope in humanity.

Afterwards our little group split up; two to the mulled wine and mince pies being served in the church, two of us to race off to a party near Trafalgar Square; warmth, food, good friends, including P, on her first time socialising since her sister’s death.

At home, my fairy lights are lit, the cards are crowded on the window sills, and most of the presents are wrapped. I’ve watched the first two parts of The Nativity on BBC1 and loved it.

I know it’s something of a cliché to rant about the commercialism of Christmas, and to talk about its ‘true’ meaning , but I would quite happily forgo all the presents and the food for that service, the Christmas story, and the optimism it inspires.

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6 thoughts on “Christmas Cheer

  1. Absolutely agree with you, Isobel.

    I love churches and church music, all year round actually but especially at Christmas.

    I enjoy meeting old friends and however much work it is, I love having the family around on Christmas Day.

    I’m really looking forward to this one; a very small person will make it extra special.

    I just hope they can make it; the weather factor is a bit uncertain at the moment.

    • Fingers crossed that the roads are clear. I am rather dreading going east as everyone there I speak to talks of black ice. Hope the little person enjoys his first family Christmas with you.

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