“The Christmas story isn’t one of loneliness and quiet isolation in the darkness. This is a story of welcome and hospitality, of lamplight and family, of birth in all its incredible sacred humanness, entrenched in a culture and in a time and within a family.”
Photo by Mink Mingle on Unsplash
The first night we visited our church it was Christmas. Our girls were tiny enough that we could bring them in their jammies. I spent most of the service in the foyer with a toddling escapee and a chocolate-sharing elder whose name we didn’t know, yet.
After the Carol Service we ventured over to the church hall for the Pudding Party. We hovered for a split second at the threshold – overwhelmed with dessert and noise and people we didn’t know yet.
Then we legged it back to our car.
(Our girls were tiny enough not to realise; they had just missed dessert).
We went back, though. More services, more foyer, more hovering at the threshold. We went back enough times that the next Christmas, I was asked to bring a pudding.
And this is how I learnt to make cheesecake.
(And referred to it as The F***ing Cheesecake).
(And the name, unfortunately, stuck).
My girls, a little older now, dress themselves in Christmas jumpers and mismatched skirts and leggings. They know now, that there’s a pudding party, a threshold they can’t get over fast enough.
Christmas is one of those markers, the passing of a year. Look how they’ve changed since last year, look how they’ve grown.
Last Christmas I was grumpy. I was tired and my children were ill-behaved. Other people ate my cheesecake and I ate something I didn’t mean to pick and snapped at the girls and tried to prevent a hundred spills. Next year, I tell my husband later, I am making The F***king Cheesecake and eating it myself, on my own, in our kitchen.
Sometimes it seems like my daughters may be growing up, but I am not.
I read , recently, that Jesus was probably born into a noisy family home, not into the isolated stable that we imagine. In Middle Eastern homes the family and animals slept in one room, and guests slept in another. There was no room in the guest room, Mary and Joseph were in the family quarters! Mary’s birth was likely to have been attended by many women and there would have been a community of family members in Bethlehem for the census. Mary may have been tired, sore and scared but the one thing she was not was alone.
Which is beautiful.
Oh Holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us we pray.
I have thought, every Christmas, that everyone in Bethlehem turned Mary and Joseph away. But I am learning, now, that they didn’t. They were brought into a household. Jesus became of Bethlehem.
I think of the places that I am of and the rooms I am invited into. I think of how I miss out on community sometimes when I choose my own rhythm or cheesecake or privacy.
This isn’t about pudding, is what I’m saying. This is church. This leaving your own kitchen, your favourite hiding places. This showing up for communion, be it eucharist or pavlova.
It’s a Christmas tradition now, me in the kitchen, making The F***ing Cheesecake. (Which I don’t eat alone, after all.)
I listen to Rend Collective as I smash the digestives: “There are no outsiders to Your love, We all are welcome, there’s grace enough.”
Christmas is one of those markers, the passing of a year. Look how you’ve changed, I whisper kindly to myself, look how you’ve grown.