St Leonard's Church

Sherfield-on-Loddon, Hampshire


Recently I have been reflecting on my childhood memories of Christmas. I was the youngest member of a family of seven squeezed into a three- bedroom house. During the 1940's times were hard in Post-war Britain .It was a time of austerity complete with ration books. No panic buying allowed but somehow we managed to survive on what little we had. Christmas was always a great family occasion.

After lunch we all gathered round the upright piano to sing carols. I used to watch my brothers and sisters roasting chestnuts on an open fire, and, of course, hanging my stocking on the bedpost overnight The house was always beautifully decorated and transformed into a kaleidoscope of colour supported by drawing pins all over the ceiling.

A popular Christmas song states that "Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year " and for many people it is, but not all. For some it can be the most stressful .It is often loaded with expectations that prove difficult, if not impossible, to achieve. It can be overtaken by grief and loneliness. Homelessness, and disillusionment with life.. My heart goes out particularly to those who have mourned the loss of a dear and precious loved one during this year.

Preparations will now become even more intense as the festive season approaches, perhaps accompanied by a feeling of panic that we might even run out of time.

In the church calendar Christmas is preceded by the four weeks of Advent. The heart of its message is the coming of Jesus, not only in lowly birth in a stable at Bethlehem, but also his second coming in power and glory to draw all people to Himself. What a day that promises to be!

I have my advent calendar to participate in the daily ritual of opening the windows numbered 1-24.I have also bought myself a book for Advent written by Stephen Cottrell, Archbishop of York and former Bishop of Reading, entitled "Let It Slow".

In the words of another popular Christmas song," it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas". so much to look forward to this month ; School nativity plays; church Christingle , Crib and Carol services; and Carol singers in the supermarkets. It is all so exciting!! I can hardly wait to pull a cracker, put on my party hat. Share the cracker joke around the table and, most importantly, tell my family how much I love them.

Many years ago, during one of my weekly visits to a primary school for Collective Worship, the children introduced me to a Christmas song. Over 200 hundred young people filling the school hall with their beautiful singing of,

Christmas isn't Christmas till it happens in your heart
Somewhere deep inside you is where Christmas really starts;
So give your heart to Jesus, you'll discover when you do
That it's Christmas, really Christmas for you.
Jesus brings warmth like a winter fire
A light like a candle's glow;
He is waiting now to come inside as He did so long ago.
Jesus brings gifts of truth and life and makes them bloom and grow.
so welcome him with a song of joy and when He comes You'll know that
Christmas is really Christmas when it happens
in your heart

If these words become a reality in your life, as they did in mine, It will surely be the most precious gift you have ever received. I wish you a Christmas full of joy, comfort ,peace and love, and a happy and prosperous New Year, good luck with any resolutions you make and be encouraged! If, at first you don't succeed, just try and try again!

Reverend Ken Batt