A sip of red wine
How long will it be, I wonder, before Jingle Bells is regarded as a carol? Only the other day a young lad, of primary school age, sniggered as he confronted me. ‘Is Santa and Jesus the same person, mate?’
I wasn’t surprised at all by his comment; I get asked all sorts of diverse questions in my line of work. What did astonish me was the way he called me mate in such an impertinent way. I just replied, ‘Have a nice Christmas,’ because I didn’t really know the truthful answer any more.
When I was in my teens, and of a more cynical nature, I used to delight in finding errors in the well-known story. I would deride the tale about shepherds tending their flocks on that night. I asked my friends, ‘Have you ever been to Bethlehem in December? Let me tell you, from experience, it is very cold.’
Obvious facts would be punctuated with my opinions. ‘The climate hasn’t changed there for at least two thousand years. If the couple did go there it would probably have been in early autumn. At that time the temperature could have reached up to thirty degrees centigrade. That’s when sheep would have been on hills with their shepherds watching over them.’ I really did think I was the clever one.
As I grew older I became far less sceptical and began to bond more and more with the Christian faith. Now, in my mature years, I am questioning my beliefs. For most of my adult life I have always liked to be part of something special on Christmas Eve. I invite people round to my “house” to celebrate with a sip of wine and some music. Just turn up before midnight; the more the merrier has always been my motto.
After much deliberation, especially how Christmas is valued today, I have decided that tonight is the last time I am ever going to be involved in this tradition. Not only that, I fear it will be my last time as a Christian as well. I finger my collar; look down at the vestments I am wearing. The pure white of my surplice, over the black cassock, gives me an unwanted air of superiority.
My mouth goes dry as I hear myself reciting from Luke, chapter 2, verses ten to eleven. Everyone is now standing; organist ready to strike the first chord. I think of the young lad who asked me about Jesus and Santa recently. I bite my lip, as I nearly announce Jingle Bells instead of hymn number 196, O Come All Ye Faithful.
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About the author
Alan has been writing short stories for ten years. In 2011 he made the short list for one story and a prize winner for flash fiction. He also won first prize, of £100, in a poetry competition in 2013. The three accolades were awarded by the best-selling UK magazine for writers. His work has been read out on Internet radio and published in hard copy magazines and e-zines.