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Christmas Day
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Ansty Church in summer

To the 12th Century Church of the Knights Hospitaller of Jerusalem, as is my custom, not for Nine Carols but for the Christmas Day service, on a blowy, very wet warm day, the small stone refuge almost full, the candles lit, and as the plain text service wended its way through the Offices the wind howled in rage outside, as if announcing a numinous new world.

In the pews whole families sat, the children quiet, the clear glass windows engraved with the texts of the waters of life, the carols reproduced on small sheets, the yellow offertory envelopes laid out expectantly. The celebrants were of all ages, though the elderly predominated, the dress code mostly tweeds, country suits, a shooting jacket, sensible shoes, a few brighter sweaters and sneakers.

The service followed the flat tone of motorway English: “And you too, mate”. The faintly remembered sonorous triads of the King James Bible and the Book of Common Prayer were banished to an outbuilding, like a smoky diesel. The improbable story was like an overheard conversation, snatches of incongruous gossip, the extenuating circumstances rehearsed without too much credence: some sort of problem about an unplanned pregnancy.

The requirement, at one point in the service, to Make a Sign of Peace, usually an occasion of deep English embarrassment, as they contemplate fellow humans with whom they have little in common, and much to regret and dispute about, was managed with aplomb. Perhaps the culture is changing, and on one day of the week, or perhaps only one day of the year, the English can tolerate close contact with those of good faith. Tempting to believe that in the eight centuries gone by the villagers loved their fellow Man better than they do now, but that is the deception of history, because, as Dryden observed: “Mankind is ever the same, and nothing is lost out of Nature, although everything is altered”.

Almost all took the sacrament, at first in absolute silence save for the wind, and then when the organist got back to her seat, to respectful accompaniment.

For “Oh Come all ye Faithful” we were permitted a descant on the penultimate verse, to which invitation heroic sopranos soared, dancing on harmonic rooftops of more lowly vocal structures. Unusually, this glorious departure did not unsettle the melodic progress of the congregation. They also serve who hum in lower registers.

In all, a good show, and as we rose at the end to face the wind the farewells were joyous in unfeigned fellowship. A moment of peace.

Reversing my car out of the sodden field, I got stuck in the mud, and in a golden example of Christian charity one neighbour, far more knowledgeable in these matters than most, advised on gear ratios for some minutes and pushed as I tried rocking the car back and forwards, until the other provided a rope and towed me out.

And so endeth the lesson.

Merry Christmas.

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  1. anon • Disclaimer says:

    Merry Christmas, James.
    And thanks for all the excellent posts.

    • Agree: Dan Hayes
  2. I wish Jessu Bambino stay with U, merry Xmas!!

  3. THIS is God, the rest is story, creeppy ones…

    Merry Creepmas!!1

  4. dearieme says:

    What would Jesus do?

    Drive a Landrover, I expect.

    “They also serve who hum in lower registers.” Well said, sir.

    • Replies: @James Thompson
  5. @dearieme

    Drive a Land Rover and always carry a rope.

    • Replies: @ThreeCranes
  6. @James Thompson

    A rope, a hatchet and a shovel, (folding).

    (waterproof matches or a BIC lighter and an LED headlamp too)

  7. Anon • Disclaimer says:

    This King-James-like writing on Christmas is always highly appreciated, as far as I am concerned, Prof.


    Good Christmas and new year to you.

  8. dearieme says:

    For family reasons we had our Mock Christmas yesterday, which means we had a white Christmas. Indeed we’re having a white Boxing Day today, and planning to scoff lots of goose, Stilton, Port and other seasonal tucker.

    It seems to me that if we have the sense to revert to the Old Calendar on leaving the EU, we’d move Christmas 11 days later in the year, noticeably improving the chances of a white Christmas.


    This can/may have some impact on so-called Flynn Effect*

    Increasing of proportion of first-children among population due the reduction of general fertility.

  10. Anon • Disclaimer says:

    close contact those of good faith. <– typo

    • Replies: @James Thompson
  11. Whoever says: • Website

    A bit late to wish you a Merry Christmas, Mr. Thompson, but I do hope that you had one, despite getting stuck in the mud. (^_^)
    I don’t comment on your posts, but I do read them — often I study them carefully. Thanks so much for writing them, and may you have a very Happy New Year!

    • Replies: @James Thompson
  12. botazefa says:

    Dr. Thompson – I think you may have a second calling, as a fiction writer. I wonder what escapades rascally Dr. Thompson is going to find himself in next Christmas!

  13. Philip Neal says: • Website

    James. You have not posted recently. I hope you are not being Watsoned (or should it be Tobied?).

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