Jesus was in the holly
MY VICAR-husband was in
his usual "I want to go to bed and not stay up for a midnight
service" mode. This mood always lasted from 8 p.m. until 10 p.m.,
and it was better to send him upstairs for a sleep, before reviving
him with a strong coffee and a mince pie before he went over to
church just before 11.
At five past 11, he was
back, in a flap. I could hear him rummaging around in his study.
"What have you lost this time?" I shouted down from the
"I've lost baby Jesus,"
Hugging my red cloak over
my nightie - I was nine months and one day pregnant - I plodded
over to church to join in the search. Husband was sure he had put
baby Jesus on the ledge in the pulpit. I glanced at the adjacent
window sill. There, sleeping on a bed of prickly holly, was the
Christ Child, moved earlier that evening by an over-zealous
All was now well in
church. Not so at the vicarage. Our children, who had been fast
asleep when I left, were both wide awake on the landing, looking on
in amazement at their grandma. She was astride the new rocking
horse, which had been meant as the Big Surprise. Santa's glass of
port had been drunk. Grandma looked rosy and was giggling.
I giggled, too, but not
for long. Sounds of a filing cabinet being opened and slammed shut,
and drawers pulled open, reached my ears.
"What have you lost this
"The prayer for the
blessing of the crib."
The clock showed that
there was one minute to go before the midnight service was due to
start. Grabbing my fountain pen, I shot an arrow prayer to the
unknown patron saint of quick-prayer-writers, and wrote a five-line
blessing on a piece of card and shoved it into my husband's
Three minutes later, I
hung my head out of the vicarage window, and heard the opening
strains of "It came upon the midnight clear". I caught the words:
"And now for the traditional prayer for the blessing of the crib. .
How long does it take for
a prayer to become traditional? Five minutes?
The importunate doll
VICARAGE children have to be very patient on Christmas
day, waiting for daddy to finish all his services and duties before
the present opening can begin. However, we did let them choose
three presents to open before church.
So it was that our three-year-old chose her new doll
to sit with her in the pew. I was pleased she was playing so nicely
on Christmas morning; for she had a reputation as a wanderer. For a
change, I could actually concentrate on the service, and rashly
closed my eyes for the prayer of consecration.
I had, therefore, no idea that she was by now
undressing her doll, and finding a string to pull from the middle
of its back. As her daddy lifted up the chalice, an automated voice
pierced the holy stillness with a loud: "I want a wee-wee." I
wanted to crawl under the pew.
My university colours
CHRISTMAS morning started five hours after husband had
crawled into bed after the midnight service. Husband went off to
take the 8 a.m. communion, and I cooked bacon and eggs for when he
returned at 8.45 a.m.
It was nearly 9 a.m. before I remembered that he had
said that, after the service, he would go up the tower with the lay
Reader to put up the flag. Recent gales had whipped the rope from
its moorings, and it would have to be posted through the metal loop
at the top of the pole.
In readiness for this operation, he had taken all my
vacuum-cleaner pipes, and those of a neighbour, and lashed them
together with my university scarf. His idea was to post the new
rope up through the length of tubing and thread it through the
His bacon was going cold, and the egg was hard, as I
went to the lounge to look out at the church tower, expecting by
now to see the St George's flag billowing out.
What I saw was two men clutching the parapet and laughing
hysterically. They still had the flag in their hands. Instead,
flying majestically was my green, yellow, and blue university scarf
to the accompaniment of pipes. Vacuum cleaner pipes. Ding-dong
merrily on high!
Only men allowed
OUR church has a "Come as shepherds, angels, wise
people, animals" invitation to our crib services.
An animated ten-year-old "wise man" was vociferous in
his views. "There were onlythree Wise Men and they
were all men. You cannot have wise girls."
A double blessing
IT WAS the little ones' nativity service. At the back
of the church, mums were fussing around shepherds, putting towels
and rope circlets on their heads. Angels in white party dresses
looked like little fairies (one had even brought a wand).
The Kings were getting clothes out of the dressing up
box. The boy playing Joseph looked sullen, and the girl being Mary,
in a blue robe with a white head scarf, sat serenely nursing the
baby Jesus. We were about to begin.
Then the door opened, and in came another little girl
in blue and white, followed by her doting family. We now had two
Well, you can't disappoint young children; so for one year only
we had an extra character at the Nativity. The second Mary became
Jesus's gran. She got to hold the baby Jesus, and her parents got
the photos they wanted.
File under 'J'
EVERY year, the manger is retrieved from a local
garage and placed in the church, filled with straw. In theory, the
baby Jesus is not placed into the manger until Christmas Day.
Except that the baby Jesus is required for various nativity and
carol services, and the manger-plus-baby is lent out for a
town-wide event. After Christmas, the various components are
returned to storage, but they don't always all arrive as and when
Here are some of the remarks we have had (all
"We've lost Jesus again. Does anyone have any idea
where he is? We need him for the playgroup nativity."
"Jesus was in the manger when he shouldn't have been;
so I popped him under the pulpit during the service, then moved him
to the vestry. He's on top of the filing cabinet."
"I didn't realise you still needed Jesus after
Christmas Day. I was going to put him back in the loft."
"If it's my Jesus then he is actually a little boy.
You need to check under his nightie."
Carnage at the crib
I DID not drop the baby Jesus. I accidentally kicked
him out of his crib, severing his head from his body, sending it
rolling into the nether regions of the sanc- tuary. This was at a
family communion service last Christmas Eve, when I was a
eucharistic minister and following the vicar with the chalice.
Our church is very proud of its Victorian nativity
set, and I felt very embarrased. The communicants who saw the
incident burst into fits of giggles.
Thank goodness for superglue. The baby's head got
stuck back on in time for midnight mass, but he now has a hairline
crack across the neck. Thank goodness for patient, long-suffering
Little furry nose
THE girl playing the part of Mary in the nativity play
promised to provide a doll to be "baby Jesus". She turned up half
an hour before the service looking embarrassed.
"I don't actually play with dolls any more; so it
turns out my mum has thrown them all out," she confessed. "But I
have brought my teddy. Will that do?"
And so, that year, we had a very well-swaddled "teddy
Jesus" as the central character of the play. Thanks to my dire
warnings, none of the other kids dared to laugh at the baby's
unusually furry nose.