Christmas in Summertime!
I arrived on Australian soil on 1st September 2021, spent 29 days in quarantine, got married on the 30th, and was licensed to St Paul’s Beaconsfield on 4th October. My feet didn’t really hit the floor and, before I knew it, we were knee-deep in Advent, and making plans for Christmas.
I had assumed Christmas was Christmas, wherever you found yourself that day. How wrong I was! I also assumed Christmas here would be the same, just considerably warmer. Again, wrong.
The first indication that I was no longer ‘walking in a winter wonderland’ was the sight of 6 huge inflatable kangaroos on a nearby balcony (apologies, “6 white boomers”, according to Rolf Harris). The second indication was slightly more ecclesiological…as we collectively studied long-range weather forecasts to see if the arrival of the sheep from the local urban farm would be cancelled, for fear of heat stroke. The shepherds in our nativity sang ‘Waltzing Matilda’ and the Angel Gabriel greeted Blessed Mary with a ‘G’day’, rather than a Hail, Mary! Mince pies and mulled wine after the nativity service were replaced with ice poles and cold sangria. And I sweltered under my vestments, rather than being grateful to them for keeping me warm.
Christmas day hit 43 degrees. We valiantly still cooked a ‘traditional’ Christmas dinner of turkey and all the trimmings, but we cooled off in the sea, and wore sun hats instead of Santa hats. And not a single person even considered whether it might snow this Christmas.
And then there was the sudden threat of a community-based COVID outbreak, and, with about an hour to spare, we decided to move all services outside – for safety, and because we could. I can’t imagine that would have been as positively received on the Northeast coast of England, where temperatures barely rose over freezing.
I added new carols, of Australian descent, into my repertoire and missed singing about Bleak Midwinters but, would you look at that: on a clear, starlit Christmas eve, in the dark of night, with candles lit, and a choir singing, our Lord Jesus Christ was born among us.
Born to each of us, just as he was that first Christmas.
And then, suddenly, it really didn’t matter where we were, who was there, or who was missing. What really mattered was that God was there, is there, always will be there, here, with us. Regardless of the weather or the location.
Joy to the world – the whole world – the Lord has come. Alleluia.