Posted on Wednesday 22 December 2021
It was very good indeed to see so many members of ARNO at the Carol Service at the Chapel Royal, St James’s Palace recently. It was a huge privilege for us to be there and I know that it was much appreciated by those who attended. Hearing those timeless words from scripture and joining in with the carols (even with a mask on!) enabled us all just for a few moments to reflect on the profound truth that Christmas holds for us all. Hearing certain carols inevitably brings back memories for us too, of Christmases past. Memories from childhood, and for me of the suburban Church I attended; candlelit and full to the gunwales for the two carol services on the Sunday before Christmas, of Midnight Mass full with gently inebriated worshippers; of children’s parties and later drinks parties, of general generosity and goodwill, of TV specials (Morecambe and Wise of course and the two Ronnies), and carolling with the Boys Brigade band around the streets; frozen fingers and a lip that failed to get a decent note out of my trombone after only two carols.
I’m remembering too Christmases when deployed; ashore in Croatia and Bosnia with the Junglies and Royal Marines in the early 1990’s, and in HMS INVINCIBLE, anchored off Cyprus preparing to sail through the Suez Canal a few years later. I’m sure your memories are more erudite than mine! Yet hearing the carols and readings once again, take us back further than our own memories of course, right to that first Christmas when a young woman gave birth to a child in difficult conditions far from home.
So what does it mean to celebrate Christmas this year? Well of course there must be a multitude of carols, turkey and tinsel, a dose of nostalgia and inevitably rather too much forced good will. But first and foremost it must mean to ponder the idea that God has spoken his word in history in the form of Jesus, it is to be prepared to believe in the depth of your being that God has said something unique in this particular birth and death and life. If, beyond the flickering candles, carols and the feasting, we can from our hearts answer “Yes” to God’s love in Christ Jesus, then Christmas really takes place and the Christ who came once at Bethlehem and took possession of the world, is born again in our hearts, and in His world.
Remembering especially any who are deployed at this time, wherever and however you are spending Christmas this year, may it be one filled with joy, and hope and peace.
With my very best wishes
The Venerable Martin Poll RN
Domestic Chaplain to The Queen, Canon of Windsor