During Advent we have been ‘Walking the Way………in many different ways……
Christmas Eve we Walked the way …….with ‘All Sorts’
as we had the usual Nativity Service
which this year also included the Baptism by total immersion of Magdi & Suzan.
They have not lived in Wales for very long and English is not their first language…but they are learning very quickly. They opened our worship with……
God of the nativity, today we once again tell your story of love.
God of the nativity, today we rejoice in the birth of the Christ-child.
God of the nativity, today we look forward to the day when:
“The wolf will live with the lamb,
the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
all people will live in peace,
and a little child shall lead them!”
Our Nativity ‘Play’, written once again by Iestyn Henson, was presented by our young people and Junior Church leaders.
It was presented with the aid of PowerPoint pictures which are currently unavailable……….but here is the text of A Modern Nativity!
Voice 1 (Isobel): I love Christmas, been looking forward to it for aaaaaggees!
Voice 2 (Bethan): (cynically): Me too. Been looking forward to it since seeing the first cards in the shop on 8th August……. And you think I’m joking!
Voice 1: Yeh, I know, but it really is a lovely time of the year isn’t it? Special! Christmas Trees, lots of good food and good company, bright lights on dark nights, Sound of Music on TV….
Voice2: (interrupts): ….but it wasn’t like that was it?
Voice 1: Wasn’t what?
Voice 2: The Christmas story. It wasn’t much like those touchy-feely things. It was much tougher, and for all the loveliness of the story, shepherds, angels, visitors from the east, it’s hard to image how it really was.
Voice 1: True, true. But it’s still a cracking good story, even when we wrap it up shiny paper and stick a bow on it!
Voice2: (thinking): How’s about we tell it differently too this morning?
Voice 1: How d’you mean?
Voice 2: Well, er…instead of the old story wrapped up, why don’t we tell a new story without any wrapping paper?
Voice 1: Oh, yeh, I like that idea!
Voice 2: Perhaps we’ll get to see the present in a different way…..
One – Aisha
In a small town, in the northern part of the country, a teenage girl called Marian sat nervously in the doctor’s waiting room, her mother beside her. The discomfort in her midriff had come and gone for almost two weeks before her mother made the appointment. Got to check it out, ok?
The very nice female doctor started in a very matter-of-fact way ‘have you tried a pregnancy test yet?’; but the reaction of Marian’s mother put the doctor on guard immediately – professional and pastoral guard. This would not be easy.
Fifteen minutes later, and the first test was done, the news was out. Marian was expecting a child. At just fifteen years of age. The doctor tried her best to calm the situation, ignoring the mother and speaking directly to Marian. “Speak to the father of the child, discuss the situation with your family, come back and let me know”. Marian was white with fear.
Though she had a chance to phone her boyfriend, Joe, Marian didn’t really get a chance to discuss it properly with him. Her parents, in their anger and in their confusion, thought it best for Marian to visit some relatives whilst they considered the next step. Actually, whilst their anger was misplaced, this proved to be the right idea, because it was her cousin Liz who persuaded her that this baby was meant to be. And as tough as it was to be, by the time she returned home, just before her 16th birthday, she was absolutely determined that this was going to be not just a wanted baby, but a very, very special baby indeed.
Two – Catherine
Joe was sitting on a bench in the park, deep in thought, wondering what on earth he should do. His parents were not happy, in fact they were downright furious. His father had, more or less, told him he could get lost, pack his bags and clear out. Over-reaction? Yeh, too right it was, but his father had always had a short fuse, and a calm, sensible approach was never likely.
Joe considered the options. He could just walk away, deny responsibility of any sort, leave it to Marian and her family to sort it. He could carry on with his apprenticeship, get the qualifications, get on with his life. Or he could stick by her, get married after her 16th birthday, try and be a family.
As he was sitting there, who should come and sit beside him, but his old woodwork teacher from secondary school, Mr Evans. Joe had always liked Mr Evans, a Welshman, known by his nickname ‘Good ‘Evans Above’ on account of accent and dropping of his H’s when he spoke.
“I’ve ‘eard” said Good ‘Evans. “About Marian – news travels fast around ‘ere. Want to talk about it?”
“Not really” said Joe. “Got to work it out in my head and do what’s best”.
“Well” Mr Evans continued “if you ask me, which you ‘aven’t, but I’ll tell you anyhow, things ‘appen for a reason. I’ve been around much longer than you, seen it all really, and best thing you can do is stick by Marian. That baby will be special – you wait and see – won’t be easy, I know, but will be special all the same.”
Joe nodded, silently. Mr Evans said “well, won’t keep you, got to get on. God bless Joe”.
And with that he was gone as quickly as he’d arrived.
And Joe knew what to do.
Three – Ben
Marian and Joe got married quickly and quietly, with just close family present. The baby was still eight weeks off, but needs must. Try as they might though, neither family could accept what was happening; neither family could find it in themselves to make the couple welcome. It was awful.
And then, Joe read an article in a Sunday supplement – nothing much in it, except the vague promise of it being easier to sign up for this and that in the big southern cities; easier to find social housing, easier to find a job; most of all, easier to blend in anonymously in a sea of anonymity. And so, the couple fled their northern roots, their moaning families and headed south. It was the second week of December.
The journey was long and difficult; and expensive. They spent small amounts of money where they needed to, but much of it was hitchhiking, or short hops on trains without a ticket, feeling guilty, but also that they had little choice. Now and again, they felt as though someone had some sympathy – an older couple who had taken them 25 miles in their car, and a lorry driver who bought them a Happy Meal each at a service station. But most strangers remained cold and indifferent, or worse still, openly critical of the young couple, marriage ring on her finger or no. You could see it in their faces ‘She should NOT be out and about in THAT condition’.
Four – Lynda
When they got to the city, they found that the hostels were full and even the budget hotels beyond their means; prices put up for Christmas, no doubt. It was either a roof for one night, or food for a week – they couldn’t afford both. And the baby was due within the month. Thought was given to sleeping on a railway station, but they opted for an all-night café, not very comfortable, but warm, dry and safe; it even had one sofa, which they nabbed as soon as it was free. Joe ordered a hot drink and some toast, which they shared, and they settled down, not knowing whether the owner or night shift worker would ask them to leave.
At 1am, Marian was dozing on the sofa, Joe reading a newspaper. There had been a steady stream of customers whilst the pubs were closing, but it was quiet now. The owner came over and sat beside Joe.
“You two got nowhere to go tonight?” he asked. Joe shook his head.
“Homeless? Or just ‘travelling’?” Joe just mumbled his reply “Not sure, yet”.
“Look”, said the owner, “I’ve got a small room round the back of the café, it’s got two of the old sofas from the shop, which the cat and the dog sleep on, but they’ll share with you if you ask nicely. Go back there and get some sleep as best you can, and we’ll talk in the morning. You’ll be perfectly safe, I promise.”
And so they were. But maybe because of the long journey, maybe because of stress, maybe just because, Marian went into premature labour that night. No time to get to hospital, no time for birth plans or pain relief, time only to call for an emergency midwife, who helped deliver the baby in the back of an all-night café.
Five – Isobel
In the road in front of the café, a dustbin lorry pulled up, its crew coming to the end of their shift, and looking forward to getting back to the depot and into the hot showers.
‘What’s that car doing there?’ asked George absentmindedly talking to himself. ‘Oh….Midwife on call’’
‘Eh? What you mumbling about’ asked Dave,
‘Car there says there’s a midwife on call, by the caf’.
‘Probably always leaves the note in the window, so she can park on double yellows. Just to get in our way, most like.
As if by magic, and clearly to contradict them in person, the midwife emerged from the back door of the café, leaned against the wall, and let out a long sigh. She looked at the dustbin men and said, cryptically ‘never a dull moment’.
‘Here on business, or pleasure?’ asked Dave, ‘only going to ask you to move the car in a minute’.
‘Oh, brought here by work, and as they say, ‘one born every minute’. Little boy, just over an hour old now, in the back room of the café. Mum and dad are from up north, homeless for now, I think. Tried to get them to go to the hospital, but having none of it. I’ll come back later in the morning to check up, and in the cold light of day, will pull strings if they still refuse. Still, ‘Unto us a child is born’ – I’m sure the kid will be a real blessing, something about them, and about him, his time and place to be here. I’ve delivered hundreds of babies, and I don’t get that feeling very often”
And with that, the midwife was off, but called over her shoulder – ‘go in and have a look if you want…. But wash your hands first please’.
‘Come on then’ said George.
‘Hang on then’ replied Dave, ‘there’s a cuddly toy sheep in the back of the van, give the nipper his first present – The Dustbin Men and the Sheep – quite appropriate for Christmas’.
Six – Tomos
George and Dave went into the Cafe, ordered a hot drink each, and asked whether it would be OK to pay their respects. In they went, as quiet as they could, and were met by quite an amazing scene. They’d seen many strange things over the years, but this was a first for them – and what an impression it made. Just as the midwife had said: something about them, and about the baby, just meant to be.
Marian and the baby were both sleeping, but Joe accepted with gratitude both the gift and the spirit in which it was given.
The dustbin men however went back out into the night and by the early hours, had spread the news along the route of their last collection points. ‘Lovely little baby born in the back of the cafe last night’ – ‘teenage parents, nowhere to go, but…ah…I don’t know….’
With all the difficult things going on, they were glad to have some really good news at Christmas.
Seven – Lucy
Early next morning, three businesspeople were seen emerging from a hotel, not more than 100 meters from the cafe. They had had a most curious conversation at the breakfast table, which had started with a random comment about the horoscopes in the morning paper, and which had been interrupted by a nosy member of the hotel’s restaurant staff.
Whoever had produced the horoscope for the day (and writing under ‘Capricorn’, if you must know) had written “don’t ignore an unexpected delivery”. The businesswoman whose star sign was Capricorn had joked about checking her email, especially for ‘business opportunities from Nigeria’ – if you know what I mean. But the nosy waitress had butted in:
“That’ll be a reference to the baby born in the cafe last night: amazing how they know about these things, these astronauts “.
“Yes” sighed the business woman, “the astrologers too”.
The conversation had, however, been turned, and over breakfast, the three decided that, indeed, they would not ignore the unexpected delivery. They were curious, for sure, but also firm believers in what might loosely be called the science of the coincidental. Successful in their own fields, being in the right place at the right time was important to them.
So on checking out of the hotel, they decided that their first stop would be the open-all-hours cafe, to see the story and fulfil the requirements of the tabloid horoscope writers.
And there, over a second breakfast, their hearts melted. And they agreed that they could, and should, do something. They spoke to Joe, who explained that really they had nothing much of anything, but that it was practical things they needed most. Boots the Chemist, a short walk away, came to the rescue. Gift Vouchers – lots but in small denominations – to be spent on clothes and other baby items as needed. Toiletries for Joe and for Marian, and a bag in which to keep them. And a first aid kit, not that the Calpol would be suitable just yet…
Finally, the business people paid for a room in the hotel; just for two nights, but just enough to get warm and clean and from which to start to sort things out.
Eight – Mo
The midwife returned in the morning, and helped Marian and Joe take the baby to the hotel – where they were tolerated, but not made as welcome as the businesspeople had imagined. It was a compromise for the midwife, who would have liked to insist on the hospital, but in fact, Marian wasn’t unwell, and the hotel was spotlessly clean. Good enough.
But the midwife was obliged to warn Joe that things couldn’t stay like this. Indeed, as well as the legal requirements of registration of the baby, the authorities would want to see what realistic plans the couple had for their domestic situation. On her second and final visit to the hotel, the midwife was blunt and to the point:
“They will not hesitate to take the baby away if you don’t sort things out Joe” she said. “If it’s not safe to travel back to your families, then find somewhere which is safe, somewhere to get housing, and a job if you can. I reckon your families will come round eventually, keep in touch with them, and go back when you can. But for goodness sake, don’t just hang around on the streets.”
The following day, Joe and Marian moved back to the cafe, where they were allowed to stay and use the address to register the boy and sort a few things out. A month or so later, they packed up again, and headed for the south coast, where a flat had been promised by a charity worker and some part-time work looked possible.
It was to be several years before Marian, Joe and the baby – named Joshua Noel – went home at last.
Voice 1: So what happened next?”
Voice 2: Well, would you believe, they had to run for their lives…they said that Joshua had the most amazing life…and a few books were written about him. One of them ended by Joshua asking his friends to tell others about his story, and there was something about dunking them in the river in his name. They say that he’ll be back one day and in a way we can’t expect
Voice 1: Do you think that’s true?
Voice 2: Yeah, maybe. It’d be great to meet the babe all grown up, eh? In the meantime, I’m just glad we get to celebrate his Birthday. Which reminds me, I’d best be running. Turkey to roast, sprouts to boil…