“This is the message of Christmas: we are never alone.” ~ Taylor Caldwell
Today is the Third Sunday in Advent and as the ‘Pink Candle of Joy’ burns brightly in the shadow of the magnificent fir tree; it’s beginning to look a little like Christmas here at St M’s.
However, you will find no tinsel and baubles on THIS Christmas tree as the Rev. Suze thought it would be a lovely idea to dress THIS tree with ‘Miss You’ cards as a present for our loved ones who will be celebrating THEIR Christmas in Heaven.
With morning prayer over and after Bertram has put his candle snuffer away as a burning candle CAN be very dangerous; the mice have been invited to help decorate the tree with THEIR ‘Miss You’ cards and although many of the cards have lovely messages on them; some have also been written with paws of sadness.
Even though Fred is proudly wearing his favourite Christmas tie and is looking forward to seeing his best friend later today at Mollie’s Tea Rooms to give him the gift he has so lovingly chosen; Fred finds it hard to get excited about Christmas as he misses his parents very much.
And when he thinks about all of the wonderful Christmas days they enjoyed together and of the funny jokes his mother would share as they tucked into his father’s deliciously cooked lunch and if he could just have ONE last wish…
HIS wish wouldn’t be for fancy ties or expensive cheese BUT for a Christmas Day with his family again.
With his lovely message to his parents hanging on the Christmas tree; he sees that Sonjia has arrived and even though she’s usually a bundle of fun, today, Fred notices the sadness in her twinkling eyes as she holds a ‘Miss You’ card in her paw and even though he doesn’t want to keep his best friend waiting for him at Mollie’s; he knows that a little kindness can go a long way and that when we are feeling unhappy, talking to one another can really help us to feel much better about everything.
As Fred and Sonjia enjoy chatting about their loved ones and of their plans for Christmas and as the kettle boils away, Everil’s busy offering hot tea with along with some of Edie Hitch’s tasty mince pies!
And as Everil has ALWAYS believed that a cup of tea can make EVERYTHING better, Sonjia’s twinkling smile soon returns!
Determined to brave this cold day, Grandpa Joe arrives at St M’s later that morning to add a ‘Miss You’ card to the Christmas tree in memory of his sweet wife Alice and even though she died many years ago after a long illness, Grandpa Joe thinks about Alice EVERY single day of the year and although he feels sad at Christmastime; knowing that Alice is now in Heaven makes him feel OK about everything.
As Grandpa Joe is too frail to add his card to the Christmas tree, Everil offers to help him and she notices that he is also clutching some money in his paw as a donation for Cruse our St M’s Christmas charity which offers free care, information and support for adults, young people and children when someone has died.
With the death of his beloved Alice and struggling to cope on his own, Grandpa Joe had contacted this national charity as he really needed somewhere to turn to and as he was able to chat to a trained volunteer who helped him with his grief, he was able to get on with his life knowing that even though Alice was no longer by his side; she would ALWAYS be in his heart.
Now that ALL of the mince pies had been eaten and with no sign of any more visitors to the church; Everil puts away the tea things and goes home to enjoy lunch with her sister Jean who is staying with her until after Christmas.
Later that cold afternoon, Howard arrives to leave a gift for Bertram and although he is not a regular visitor to St M’s, he is amazed to see the beautiful Christmas tree and having spotted the ‘Miss You ‘ cards on the table, he picks one up…
Although his father died only last year, Howard had not seen him for a long time as they had not enjoyed a good relationship.
For Howard had grown up believing that he was a disappointment to his father as he was either ignored or compared unfavourably to his brother and sister and as he struggled to live his life in the best way he could, he grew apart from his family as he knew that he could NEVER be the kind of mouse his father had wanted him to be.
Now, as Howard gazed at this card in his paw and thought about all that he had missed as he was growing up; he grew sad as he imagined how things ‘could have been’ and that he would never know the reason why his father had disliked him so much.
Having slipped quietly into the church and as the Rev. Suze watched Howard wipe away the tears from his eyes, she went over to him to offer what little comfort she could.
“I keep thinking of all the Christmases that I never got to enjoy with my father,” Howard finally whispered “And that I have no memories of any wonderful Christmases past to comfort me.”
“Oh Howard! Christmas can be SUCH a hard time for SO many! What with the pressure to spend money that we don’t have, buying gifts we don’t need and the food we won’t eat AND having to be with people we’d rather avoid but Howard it might help you to remember that for every gift we carefully select and wrap, and every shiny bauble that we hang on the tree and even when we have stuffed ourselves so full of food that we fall asleep; we are also living a life for someone who is no longer with us..”
“And every time we think of this someone who is no longer with us; we are keeping the spirit of that person very much alive and they remain with us even when we are NOT thinking of them.”
“But do you know what I believe to be the true magic of Christmas? It’s those gifts you will NEVER find under ANY Christmas tree but given to us through the birth of a tiny baby all those years ago in a faraway land and it’s the gifts of faith, hope, love AND forgiveness and Howard, they are YOUR gifts too!
“Why not write a message to your father Howard and say what is in your heart? And after you’ve put it on our lovely tree alongside the others, carry on being the special and caring mouse you KNOW you are and I promise you that all will be well.”