The Meaning of Christmas

December 24, 2010

Clay Nelson

Christmas Eve, Carols Service


Christmas Eve is a time for candlelight.

It is a time when one desires little more

than family and soft music.


Who can say what passes through our hearts on Christmas Eve?

Strange thoughts.

Undefinable emotions.

Sudden tears.


Christmas Eve is a time to be quietly glad.

It is a time to wonder, to give thanks,

and of quiet awakening to beauty

that still lives on through the strife

of a war-torn world.


But Christmas Eve is also a time for memories and remembering.

For some, the memories are of loved family members

who have died, and the festive season

makes the pain of those losses ever more real.


For others, the memories are of happier times than we know now,

felt as the anguish of broken relationships,

the insecurity around employment,

the anxiety of illness or poor health,

or the emptiness of loss after flood, drought, earthquake or mine disaster.


All these feelings can be with us this night

as we gather in this sacred place surrounded by candles shining bright

in the dark of night.


Here we are safe to feel what we feel:

to acknowledge our sadness,

to share our concern,

to release our anger,

to face our emptiness,

and still to know that God by what ever name or experience,

is made present in the caring thoughts and deeds of others.


So let us be and share and remember and receive,

assured that we are not alone in our life experiences.


On the day after Boxing Day I received this gift via email. 


I attended a Christmas eve service for the first time in my life. It was yours at St Matthews.

When I arrived home I wrote this poem and I trust you will take something positive from it, as I did from you. It's the experience of one person among hundreds.


You may recognise the opening words as having been spoken by you during the carols...

Kind regards



Christmas at St Matthews

Peace rolls on

Through strife and war


Struck numb by loneliness

He doesn’t know

His lover

Is just at his back

By the cathedral door


On his right

The older lady from Wellington

With her nervously excited,





Through constant glances

Revealing concern

For her mother’s enjoyment,

Changing places with father

To be closer still


To his left

A young man

Thinking of his England

And tortured times in his teens

There to remember his mother

Taken by cancer,

A Grandfather, still alive,

So far away, and

A father he never pleased,

Now never sees


Behind him a Buddhist monk,

Courteously bowing his head

Here from Japan to

To witness a Christian service

Strange words

Flowing over his head


Beautiful words,

Beautifully read,

Tumbling from the pulpit

Invoking his thoughts

Of a relationship broken,

The loneliness born of loss,

The uncertainty coming

With a job soon to end...


Reflected on in calmness,

Just for now

Emotions carried

On the waterfall of



Pushed from great pipes

By the delicate touch

Of a joyful man,

(His animated body

shaking long blond hair),

Dwarfed beneath vaulting arches



Cooler breeze

Meeting clearer mind

Neck craning

Hoping, as if by looking,

The bells peeling


That it’s Christmas!

Will impart


Love and hope,

To more than just

Those who hear,

Who have been,

On this one night,



Graeme on Christmas carols at St Matthews, Auckland, December 24, 2010

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