Thursday, December 22, 2011

Thought for the Day
Good Morning Scotland
BBC Radio Scotland
December 22nd, 2011

At our service of Nine Lessons and Carols the other night we had our university students back in the congregation and in the choir. Back for a while, they look forward to restoring the familiar - to having their laundry done, to having a meal with the people they know.

We know who sits where and who carves the turkey. We appreciate Christmas carols we can sing without looking at the words. Once we've had a glass of mulled wine - or two - we might even provoke a little amusement, in familiar surroundings, by chancing the bass line or the descant.

There are folk who aren't at the table - family members and friends we've not gotten on with since the "event" of 1979 or 1982. Or maybe we've just drifted. We are unsettled by this state of affairs.

But we might ask, defensively, "why should we always be the first one to pick up the phone?"

The traditions of Christmas meals and celebrations with limited groups of our dearest and closest have more to do with the residue of North West European village life than they do with the Christmas stories in Matthew and Luke, where you'll find a surprising amount about the outsider, the alien, the stranger - those who've been thrust to the margins - being invited by God into the heart of the story: The strangeness of the foreign wise men - even the angels in the dead of night visiting shepherds - who are in no way integral t the story - for no good reason other than to announce that God has given a gift to those who are far off welcoming them in.

If the gift is for us it is for the outsider as well and for the person we find it hard to speak with. The nagging feeling about the unwritten letter and the unaccomplished healing phone call has its origins right at the heart of the Christmas story. It is a timely reminder that, as the Scottish Liturgy puts it,

"...when we were still far off (God) met us in (his) Son and brought us home..."

An audio link is available for a limited time HERE. TFTD begins at 1:18.20 - halfway along the audio bar.