We recently took our Grandson, Dylan to see the Christmas Tree Festival in Leighton Buzzard. The church there is very old and has a magnificent spire. The whole of the inside of this delightful church was packed with Christmas trees of all colours with very thoughtful decorations. Just as we arrived, a party of school children entered the building and the noise level rose a bit! They were excited because quite a few of the exhibits had been made in the school and they were anxious to see them in their designated spaces.
Each tree said something special about the organisation for which it was set up. Particularly poignant to me was the one set up to collect money for the homeless in our community. Sadly this community has been growing over the years of our recession.
Dylan was entranced by all the trees and their decorations.
When we had finished looking at the trees, we sat down to listen to the school children singing Christmas songs. Their voices rang out beautifully in the old building and filled our hearts with joy.
…and before long, it was time to go home. Dylan soon dozed off in the car, aah
Here is a story I wrote a few years ago:
Christmas Time at Langwitch
Barry Thompson, aged 6 years old, couldn’t afford to buy his mother a Christmas present, and he had racked his brains to try and think of something to make her but he wasn’t very accomplished when it came to making things.
It was 5th December, the day of the annual Christmas Tree Festival at St. Nicholas’s Church in Langwitch. The beautiful old church looked even more attractive than usual, decorated as it was with thirty-six Christmas Trees of all colours and sizes. Mrs. Smithers, the part-time secretary at Primrose Primary School, parked her car at the back of the church hall and made her way through the churchyard with Barry Thompson. She was looking after him for her friend, Angela, who was taking a break to do some Christmas shopping in the High Street. Both Mrs. Smithers and Barry were looking forward to the treat of seeing the Christmas trees in all their glory.
The gravestones in the churchyard stood tall or leaned sideways as they passed between them. They looked just like a row of crooked old teeth. A row of old yew trees was resplendent, covered in their scarlet red berries with dark branches hanging low in their dampness. Mrs. Smithers held tight to Barry Thompson’s hand. Heavenly music, played on the organ, was drifting towards them as they entered the church through the large oak side door, letting in a blast of cold air as they did so.
Once inside the atmosphere was warm and welcoming. The smell of pine and candles was enthralling. Mrs. Smithers paid the entrance money into a large plastic margarine pot and was given a programme and a voting ticket! Following the numbers in the programme she made her way up the nave and into the chancel. Each tree had been expertly decorated by young and old groups of volunteers, each hoping to win the coveted accolade of the “Best In Show”. Proceeds from the festival were going towards the continuing restoration of St. Nicholas’s Church.
The Langwitch Lace Group had crafted some very pretty circlets of hand-made lace, exquisitely fragile and delicate, as they hung in gay profusion from their tree. Their entry was entitled “Bobbins, Bangles and Lace”. The Brownies had fashioned an exciting tree with photographs of themselves to decorate the branches. Smiling faces looked out from the tree as Mrs. Smithers passed by with Barry. Standing in the corner was a bottlebrush tree, donated by the local chemist, and covered all over in red, spiky baby-bottle brushes.
“How original!” thought Mrs. Smithers.
In the right hand corner was a wall plaque, which Mrs. Smithers read out loud to Barry:
“Every part of this church is open at all times, but this corner is a special place where children can bring their gifts of flowers, read and pray, and speak their hearts to God.”
Barry, red cheeks glowing, put, his little hands together and talked to God. He asked for a Christmas present for his mum because he couldn’t think of anything and he didn’t feel clever enough to make anything. He wanted it to be special, something she would really love and treasure. He asked for something that she could keep for a long time.
Leaving behind that wonderful corner, Mrs. Smithers and Barry turned into the chancel and there stood a tree decorated by the local Rainbow Children in all colours of the rainbow and coloured lights as well. It was enchanting.
At the end of the chancel was a large stained glass window. By now dark outside, the interior lights lit up the window and Christ, hanging on his cross in the window with a crown of thorns upon his head, looked down upon his faithful people. Mrs. Smithers thought she could see him smile. A young mum in a blue coat with a headscarf tied around her brown curls, was showing her toddler the beautiful window. He wriggled in his buggy and pointed to the image of Christ.
On went Mrs. Smithers, past “The Twelve Days of Christmas” by the Makin family and “Winter Wonderland” by Valerie and Kate. She stopped and cast her eyes over a magnificent floral Christmas tree decked out by the Langwitch Ladies Floral Arts Club. Lavender coloured roses were tucked into the branches in uniformity, and strings of cream coloured pearls hung in loops all around. Twinkly lights enthralled.
Down to the organ corner where one of the churchwardens was playing tenderly:
“Away In A Manger, No Crib For A Bed, The Little Lord Jesus Laid Down His Sweet Head”.
The Methodist minister was serving steaming hot cups of tea and coffee from an electric urn, and her assistant was arranging homemade mince pies on a large plate nearby. Fruit cake and walnut cake and mini chocolate rolls were fighting for space on another plate nearby and the queue for refreshments was getting longer and longer.
With a cup of tea in one hand and a plate with mince pies in the other, Mrs. Smithers sat herself down with Barry on one of the glossy oak pews. Her thoughts returned to Christmases long ago. She remembered the Christmas of 1962/3 when the whole country was covered in snow for weeks. As a little girl in long red Wellington boots, she went with her dad to fetch milk and eggs from the shop because the milkman was unable to get his float down the road. Dad’s breath froze on his moustache and turned it prematurely grey.
Coming back to the present, Mrs. Smithers chose her favourite tree and put the number of it on her voting slip. The slip went into a waste paper basket collection receptacle, to be counted later. She bought a raffle ticket and popped it in the drum and then left the church as she found it, a place of great tranquillity.
Dark outside now and getting colder, the Churchyard surrounding the church building was well lit and ghostly shadows followed Mrs. Smithers and Barry back to the car.
“Now” she said “I feel that Christmas has begun”.
Three weeks later and it was Christmas Eve. Angela Thompson, Barry’s mum, went to the front door and opened it to put the milk bottles in the crate and some rubbish in the dustbin. There on the doorstep was a huge black cat, which meowed urgently, asking to come in. Mrs. Thompson looked around and saw Barry. He knew why it had come.
“It’s for you mummy, it’s your Christmas present,” he said knowingly. He knew that Jesus wouldn’t let him down.