"You have begun your Christmas in the best way possible," said Fr Allan at the end of the Vigil Mass, "by welcoming Christ into your hearts at Mass in Holy Communion." Amen to that.
It was a charming Mass, complete with the dear children presenting a nativity play (the actual Gospel was read as normal, separately; and such a play seems innocent enough, an adjunct to the sermon I suppose): the choir turned out to consist of Mary and I, with Janet as organist, so we did our best with Christmas favourites. One amusing problem occurred at the Offertory: Janet transposed "Hark the herald angels sing" not down one note, but up! So the top notes proved quite painful for this bass-baritone...
After the final hymn, we sang "Merry, Merry, Merry Christmas", the last from a cycle of Australian Christmas carols by John Wheeler. Some of the parishioners, being Polish, were heading off straightaway after the Mass (which ended just after 7 pm) since they have their Christmas meal and present-giving party on this, the Eve.
Our family Christmas Eve tradition is to eat fish (cooked in cream, with almonds and breadcrumbs and lots of salt and pepper); so we kept the ancient fast. To partake, we met at my sister's home after Mass.
All this is but the start to Christmas 2013: I have to be at Church of Apostles at 10:45 pm, since I am singing in the choir there as well. Carols begin at 11:15 pm, and Midnight Mass follows. Then I will get up Christmas morning and go to Carmel for their 8:30 Mass, since my old friend Fr Paul, O.P., is visiting.
Later in the day to-morrow, my aunt and uncle will join us, and it will be present time, followed by a gargantuan Christmas dinner… with luck, I can nap in the afternoon, before waking up for the Queen's Christmas message in the evening.
I do like another Australian Christmas carol: "The north wind is tossing the leaves":
Here in Tasmania it isn't normally scorching hot at yuletide, but on the Mainland it can be – in Perth it usually is, if I remember aright – so this carol strikes the right note for an antipodean Christmas.
Every blessing to all readers at this holy season: may the Christ Child enter into your heart and abide there evermore, joining earth to heaven, restoring all things in Himself.
P.S. Please don't forget the poor and suffering this Christmas, those near at hand and those far away: think of the people of Syria, of South Sudan, of the Philippines...