We are coming up to Christmas again. Whether you are a believer or not I think you’ll agree that the Christmas story is one of the best-known stories around. It has interesting characters: an unmarried pregnant girl who’s a virgin about to give birth, a carpenter who takes her as his own, shepherds, kings, angels and an infant who is God. The atmosphere is there too: it’s cold, there are bright stars in the sky, snow on the ground, and the couple find themselves in a foreign country where all the accommodation is full. They end up sleeping, and she gives birth, in someone’s barn surrounded by cattle and sheep.
Take the romance out of the story however, the carol singing and the tinsel, and it’s one that so many people are living today at Christmas 2022 - refugees, asylum seekers, homeless youngsters and adults, families being evicted from their homes.
And what about our own story? We all have one, have we not? We all have our struggles, our joys and our heartbreaks, disappointments, hopes fulfilled. It’s what comes with being human. It’s what connects us to everyone else, whether we live in a palace or on the street, well-off or dependant on food banks.
When we come home for a few moments to the quiet place within us, to our secret stable if you wish, it’s good to feel that connection. There, despite all the horror stories we hear today, the anxieties, the frustration, the suffering, we know that the final story is a good one.
As always, I thank all those of you who sent me their comments and reflections on my last ramblings. Please keep them coming. Remember too that I am always available as a Life Coach and Counsellor.
I wish you all the very best for Christmas and 2023.
P.S. From a country which is not perhaps on your present list of holiday destinations, I thought I’d share with you an old Christmas story.
The Iron Winter and the Raggedy Old Man.
The Russian winter of 1910 was the severest in memory. It was so cold that it was known as the ‘Iron Winter’.
Because of its location, a prosperous and popular hotel some twenty kilometres from Moscow, suffered particular loss of business. No one had stayed there for weeks and the owner had laid off most of his staff.
One evening, he was surprised to hear a knock on his front door. Upon opening it, he was confronted by a grey bearded, raggedy old man. The old man said that he had been out in the snow for several days. He was freezing cold and starving hungry. Could the hotelier give him a meal and a bed for the night?
“I can certainly do that”, said the hotelier, “For one night’s accommodation plus a meal, the charge is three roubles. Can you pay?” The old man confessed that he had no money, but if he was sent away, he would surely die in the cold.
The hotelier felt sorry for the old man and told him to come inside. He took him to the kitchen where, bubbling away on the stove was a pot of borsch (beetroot soup). The hotelier ladled out a large portion of the borsch, added a twist of sour cream and for good measure, gave his visitor half a loaf of rye bread. The raggedy old man was obviously very hungry and soon disposed of the bread and the soup. The hotelier laughed to see a great beetroot stain along the bottom of the old man’s moustache
The raggedy old man thanked the hotelier for the food and said, “You won’t see the going of me in the morning, but although I have no money now, I will pay you the three roubles when I have it”. The hotelier said nothing but did not expect to see either the three roubles or the old man ever again.
The snow eventually cleared and business began to pick up. In fact, the hotel became busier than it had ever been.
In the spring, being a devoutly religious man, the hotelier decided to go to the great cathedral in the city to give thanks to God for the hotel’s recovery and continued success.
Upon arrival in the capital, he made straight for the cathedral. Once inside, he gazed around the interior of the ancient church. His eyes fell upon the many icons that adorned the walls. He was drawn in particular to one image in a far corner.
It was painted in the likeness of an old man with a grey beard and seemed vaguely familiar. As he drew closer, he noticed a dark, beetroot like stain upon the moustache. He looked at the name inscribed beneath the image. It read, “Saint Nicholas”
He reached for a candle to place in front of the icon and as he moved the loose earth into which he would fix the candle, his hand touched something small and hard. It was a coin, a rouble. Beside it were two more. He picked them up and looked again at the icon.
The beetroot stain was gone and the face was smiling.