Advent: December 2018
With schools breaking up for their Christmas break on 13th December, and the need to put on a Nativity play before some families go away, the Christmas season presses in upon Advent. On the first weekend of Advent we once again showed the Busted Halo youtube film Advent in two minutes, which reminds us that if you are sick of Christmas by December 25th, you haven’t done advent correctly.
So despite having a wonderful two plays – a traditional Nativity play, by the younger children and another reflecting on the meaning of Christmas by our burgeoning teenage group, Stephen and I found ourselves covering up the Nativity that we put under the altar and putting back the purple advent altar frontal, so we could more easily continue the Advent themes up until the evening of Sunday 23rd December, when we hold our Nine lessons and Carols. The Nativity, from Shelter the UK based charity addressing the challenges of homelessness was beautifully narrated by Aidan, and had a young sheep trying to kidnap the baby Jesus and a shepherd seeking to restore order, and parents and leaders not sure when to step in, but it caught the elements of good and bad news that are all part of the telling of the story.
Our teenagers put on a thoughtful play, whose script they had worked on themselves: a discussion set in an expatriate school while the teacher was out of the classroom in which there were both cynics, who dismissed the Christmas story, and others for whom it was passionately important. It ended with the most cynical member of the class being given a Bible to go and read for himself.
We were delighted to welcome the new Manager for Mission to Seafarers for the Middle East and South Asia, the Reverend Andy Bowerman, whom I interviewed during the service. It didn’t need much of an interviewer as Andy was clearly full of stories both of a previous Nativity, in which his then young son was involved as a shepherd, and of the needs of seafarers away from home over Christmas and the difference that the Mission’s Chaplains can make through their care in this season. That Friday morning we were collecting gifts for seafarers’ Christmas parcels.
Andy had a busy 30 hours in Bahrain, spending time visiting ships with Stephen, meeting our Cathedral Council over a meal on Thursday evening with representatives of BISS, (the Bahrain International Seafarers Society), meeting our Treasurer, as well as attending the Friday morning service, but it was an encouraging time and he seemed impressed by the model of partnership between MtS and the Cathedral and other community groups. This was reinforced with the presentation of a generous cheque from the Marathon Relay organizers and Christmas gifts from Sue Gale, representing the American Women’s Association.
Hairspray and Winter Concert : Tuesday 4th December/ Tuesday 11th December 2018
Undoubtedly some of the best musical theatre in Bahrain comes from the schools, so it was a privilege to attend the St Christopher’s School production of Hairspray in my capacity as a Governor. It was not a show that I knew, but the music is catchy and the setting in the 1960’s highlights themes that remain particularly important grappling as it does with some serious contemporary issues serious issues such as racism and prejudice based on social class.
A week later we were back at St Christopher’s for their Winter Concert, another wonderful occasion bringing together children from across all age groups in the school in a mix of different choirs and instrumental groups for a very special event. Congratulations to the music staff and all the children involved!
Christmas Living Room Dialogue: Sunday 9th December 2018
We were a fairly full house for mulled wine, shared food and shared contributions of Advent and Christmas stories, poems, music and carols for what is usually our Living Room Dialogue programme. There was a lovely mix of special choices including an old youtube clip of a very young David Bowie and Bing Crosby singing Little Drummer Boy, which I’d never seen. I enjoyed reading Tomie de Paola’s The Clown of God. The evening finished with a beautiful carol composed by John Rutter.
St Christopher’s School Christmas Assembly: Monday 10th December 2018
I had an early start after the late evening before to get down for the St Christopher’s School Junior School Assembly in Saar, taking with me Jesus Christmas Party by Nicholas Allan and a few innkeeper’s clothes and props. It’s a simple retelling of the birth of Jesus from the point of an increasingly grumpy innkeeper who likes a good night’s sleep, but is constantly woken up by knocks on the door, bright light (the star), and angel’s choruses. He eventually goes round the back (a constant refrain in the story) in anger to see what is going on, but finds a little baby has been born; his anger flies away and he is caught up in the wonder of his birth and, in the excitement of it all, he goes round knocking on the doors of all the other guests staying in the inn so they too can share in the joy, so no one got much sleep that night. Rhona kindly read the story and I mimed the actions, only adding to the script by snoring when the innkeeper was asleep.
Over the last few days a few parents have said how much their children enjoyed my assemblies, and the particular aspect apparently mentioned by the children was that we prayed, as if this was a new experience, at least at school. I can’t help feeling that in our self-consciously secular age, schools have deprived our children of what is an important aspect of their lives and that prayer is an expression of the fact that we are spiritual, as well as intellectual and physical beings.
British Embassy Carols: Monday 10th December 2018
It was once again a privilege to share in the British Embassy Carols, a wonderful community event put on by the staff of the British Embassy, reading a Bible reading and giving a blessing at the conclusion of the event. It is always an occasion to catch up with a variety of people, but for us a special joy to meet up with Charlotte who was just three or four years old when we arrived in our last parish in Kent and fourteen when we left; she is now here in Bahrain for six months with the Royal Navy, as a reservist.