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Dec - Jan 2017 Issue 3 number 3
‘Feliz Navidad!’ The Revd Dr Charles Miller
W The Editors
Andrew Colborne Alexandra Green Louise Heffernan Sheila Hills
Silvia Joinson David Pope
Copy for next issue to Parish Office or via email by 5th of
preceding month E-mail:
Parish Office: St Helen’s Court, Abingdon. OX14 5BS
Tel: 01235 520144
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e often measure the milestones in our lives by Christmases. ‘There was that Christmas when...’ ‘Oh, d’you remember the Christmas that...’ ‘Of course that Christmas Dad/Mum/Gran was still with us...’ Often that’s what makes Christ-
mas emotionally hard, so that the longer we live, the more Christmas provokes feelings of loss and absence rather than presence and sharing. At the same time positive experiences decorate our memories, and whether trivial or profound they are part of the accumulation of memories by which ‘who I am’ hangs on the succession of Christmases like a bauble hangs from a fir tree branch.
This year is my tenth Christmas as the Team Rector of Abingdon. I don’t recall much about the first Christmas in 2006 except the feeling of relief, for my ministry here came after a very hard, sometimes desperate, period in my life both professionally and personally. With the celebration of Christmas that year came, of course, a ground-swell of feelings—the accumu- lation of Christmases past—some of which I felt but most of which were beyond explicit retrieval. All of that I carried into the midnight Mass then home again where only my dog (did she know it was our first Christmas here?—I’ve always wondered) awaited my return. The next morning, after duties were done, I travelled a bit to join my family for company, tasty food, a sharing of simple presents, and a well-deserved rest. The rest I needed was physical, sure: all the hours on my feet leading services, preaching, greeting—it’s exhaust- ing. But that Christmas and the other days of Christmastide that followed were the occasion of a deeper rest. I mean by that the sense of having found in Abingdon a place to stop and put down roots, a place of repose, a place where I could re-connect with God, with others, with my calling, with the positive energy and experiences that make life.
That, after all, is what Christmas is about. It’s not just a celebration, it’s an experience. ‘In Him was life, and that life was the light of men’ (St John 1.4)—we hear those words every Christmas Eve. It was time for me to experience again that life.
Throughout that first Christmas the words of José Feliciaño’s song, ‘Feliz Navidad’ (‘Happy Christmas’), recorded by the ‘three tenors’ and popular in Manhattan where I had been liv- ing, constantly ran through my head:
Feliz Navidad, feliz Navidad, feliz Navidad, próspero ano y felicidad! (Merry Christmas, a prosperous year and happiness!)
I remember walking back to the Rectory after the midnight Mass under a bright winter moon. With my shoes off, I lit a candle in the sitting room, sat down, and sipped a bit of sherry from a glass put out for Fr Christmas by the fireplace. (I ate one of the Christmas cookies for the reindeer too, I confess). ‘Feliz Navidad...’—I kept hearing. ‘Yes’, I was glad to be able to say to myself, ‘despite all the travail and heartache of the past few years, I can see a future now. God has been there all the time, quietly leading me here...Emmanuel, God with us, God with me. It is a happy Christmas!’
And that’s what I wish to you: feliz Navidad, and a happy New Year!
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