A rash of Advent festivities and get-togethers.
We introduced first-timers to time-honoured student haunts like old Belgo Centraal:
The Beat-the-Clock special may not exactly be value-for-money compared to sourcing your own mussels from Billingsgate, but tasty enough to warm up, washed down with decent beers. Plus there’s the slight entertainment of waitstaff in monk outfits.
Then of course we had to visit a pasar malam – the nearest being the Southbank Christmas Market:
on offer were mulled wine, sausages and an assortment of hot salty meats, liquorice, gingerbread, board games, funny winter hats, rides on an attractively garish carousel.
Further along the river, smiling people emerged from the carol service at Southwark Cathedral:
Two days later, after a celebration brunch that stretched far into lunch, we walked straight into a flash mob of Santa Clauses coming to town outside the Tate Modern, with reinforcements arriving from Nelson’s Column via St. Paul’s Cathedral:
In a tube station, university carollers had tubs out for “Mary’s Boy Child”:
Piles of mincepies awaited the outcome of silly Christmas party entertainment at The School:
More mincepies, some stollen, piles of clementines, and vats of mulled wine, amid tombs and memorials, too awaited the end of a city carol service at St. Helen’s Church, Bishopsgate:
Another celebration lunch, this time at Bluu (1 Hoxton Square), with our Secret Santa stash under the Christmas tree, many failed crackers, loads of tactless banter:
A good snapshot of what many would bemoan to be the commercialisation or paganisation of Christmas – I mean, seriously, Christmas trees, mince pies, stollen, mulled wine, clementines in a church service?! And all those festive meals and drunk Santas – what about the reason for the season? What about putting the Christ back into Christmas?
I’m personally not at all averse to paper crowns, baubles, and glitter, because:
- who can say ‘no’ to a party (or rather, a whole season of parties)? Woohoo!;
- Christians have the best reason to party;
- the more merrymakers, the merrier!
But still, there is the sad emptiness of those partying without a real reason to rejoice. If only everyone could see what a marvellous thing it is to be loved by God, who sent his Son to save us from his wrath and reconcile us to himself, not after we decided to turn and repent, but while we were still ungodly, sinners, enemies of God:
6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (Romans 5:6-11)
The gift of Jesus, the gift of reconciliation and salvation, is totally free – we did nothing to deserve it, nor could any amount of good works ever earn us a relationship with the holy God who cannot but destroy sinful humans, if he is to be perfectly righteous and just.