In Sharing the Darkness, Sheila Cassidy, one time Nun, then Medical Director of St Luke’s Hospice in Plymouth, wrote movingly of an experience on Christmas Day in the Hospice. David, who suffered from a malignant cancer in his mouth, had tried desperately to maintain his independence, as an out-patient. On Christmas Day he was forced to come in for treatment. A single man, he was accompanied by a community nurse. David handed Dr Cassidy a bottle of champagne with a scribbled note attached, “I appreciate all you are doing for me.” Shelia wondered about Christmas dinner and asked whether he could manage a little liquid turkey. She was almost reduced to tears when he replied, “Thank you, but a little watery porridge will be fine.”
On Christmas Eve, in our city there will be homeless, sleeping under a bridge, outside a church, or railway station. Anywhere there is shelter. In the morning they will awaken, pack up their meagre possessions and walk the streets, hungry, hoping to be invited to have a meal, prepared by mission, church, street kitchen, or charity. There will be people on board ships, or on tour, who cannot face being home at Christmas, having Christmas dinner with strangers. There will be service men and women overseas, away from families, sharing Christmas dinner with each other, with loved ones present in spirit, and in their prayers.
Everywhere, Christmas Dinner will be happening, joining families near and far in the spirit of giving and sharing. Sadly, many will eat and drink too much, and miss the reason for celebration. A long time ago a hassled innkeeper found room in a stable for a refugee family. The wife was pregnant. During the night a child, a son was born. Maybe, the innkeeper did not know of the birth till the morning. But the stable inmates, God’s special creatures, were there. Angels kept watch. The little family was safe.
Later that day, as Sheila cooked and ate Christmas dinner with the various members of her family, she could not put out of her mind the man whose mouth was full, “not of Christmas food, but of a foul necrotic tumour”.
In the home, in spite of his disfigured face, David was accepted, loved and cherished, as he had never felt before. A little watery porridge, was Christmas dinner for David, as he joined his new family, sharing Christmas in the caring atmosphere of St Luke’s Hospice.
How grateful should we be, as we enjoy the smells, sight and delicious taste of Christmas dinner, around the table with our families! We should be mindful of those who have, not the means, nor the ability, to appreciate the delights and treats of Christmas dinner, as we do. We should especially be thankful for God’s special gift of the one born in that stable, whose life has made Christmas, a joyous celebration of songs and carols, of giving and receiving, ever since.