Last week I did some carol singing after a hearty Christmas meal with my team of city centre chaplains.

But this Yuletide song-a-long wasn’t in a church hall or hidden away but rather in a very busy and boisterous Wetherspoons pub in the centre of Peterborough.

Most people received the Carol Sheets that I offered with a smile and a wish for a merry Christmas but one man shouted:

“I’m not singing any songs to your **&£@@%#* imaginary friend…”

I coolly replied,

“Yeah, I guess it wouldn’t make sense if you think he’s just some imaginary thing!

And then I went and sang my heart out! People joined in and we even had some applause.

I did this because I believe Jesus to be very real and his life and teachings to be true. And that’s my prayer for everyone that I meet over this season, at carol concerts and Christmasy things that we wouldn’t just hear and sing songs to some imaginary bloke dressed in white drawing gown, Swedish looking with long blond hair and blue eyes but that we would experience the real Jesus with us, right in our midst. The one who loves to turn up and let us know that he is with us.

Here’s a poem I’ve written for this year seeking to draw the reader into imagining the first Christmas scene:

The Lavish Present of His Presence

I’ve brought my mop, never mind frankincense and myrrh, this place needs a golden clean

Picture the scene

Go on imagine it… ox dung plop, plopped in each corner, plop, plop, plop, plop

Donkey pee perfume hanging in the air of this make shift maternity suite

Old broken feeding trough, splintered and filled with hay smelling sweet and there within, with blood and goo still on him

A new-born baby. I mean what is this? It’s absurd

Joseph whispers: haven’t you heard? This is the “Lavish Present of his presence

Her face is shining, admiring, inspiring

Me to also bow and alongside the shepherds I kneel and behold this old old story

And I see the ancient of days now smooth skinned and all fleshy like you, like me

He’s so vulnerable, bundled in cloth tightly wrapped, unaware of the squalor, that he’s homeless, a refugee, needing to flee,

“It’s alright” Mary states, he’s royalty. You don’t need to fear, just soak it in, this is God come near,

This is the “Lavish Present of his presence

Tears drip as I blurry gaze and try to comprehend. I know the story, I know the end

But I want to see it afresh once more, that this little bundle would grow and adore

The world so much that he would teach us how to be, to live a life so lavishly

How could God so distant, squeaky clean and bright and holy come to rescue and to be one of us

As if he heard me think, not in but out, one of the shepherds said with a shout

This is the “Lavish Present of his presence!

This is the “Lavish Present of his presence!


A prayer:

May you know God revealed to you through Jesus

May you experience God reaching down to you

May you have a good relationship, like a good dad with a son or daughter

May you know the friendship of Jesus that he isn’t just an imaginary friend but a real friend.


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