There is an emanation from the heart

which cannot be described,

but is immediately felt and puts

the stranger at his ease.

~Washington Irving

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.
It turns what we have into enough...

.........and more.

It turns denial into acceptance,
chaos to order, confusion to clarity.

It can turn a meal into a feast,

a house into a home,

a stranger into a friend.

~Melody Beattie

Don't be satisfied with stories,

how things have gone with others.

Unfold your own myth.

May my life be like a great

hospitable tree, and may

weary wanderers find in

me a rest.

~John Henry Jowett

Friday, 12 December 2014

The Choir of New College Christmas Concert in Aid of Family Links

Stuart and I were so fortunate and blessed to be able to attend a Christmas carol concert last night, performed by the Choir of New College in the New College Chapel.  As we walked in, hundreds of candles lit the chapel, bathing everything in a soft glow.

We took our seats and Stuart was very excited to be able to sit in one of the misericords that line the back walls of the chapel and are usually reserved for college fellows.  He sat down with the excited grin of the ex-Christ Church College schoolboy that he is.

The concert began with the choir singing two carols, The Truth from Above and Once in Royal David's City, in the antechapel.  Their voices lifted through the chapel like a clear echo and began what would be a magical two hours.

Peppered between the carols were readings of poetry and verses from Isaiah and the Gospel of Luke.  BBC presenter Alexander Armstrong's voice rang out John Betjeman's 'Christmas', my favorite 'A Child's Christmas in Wales', and Thomas Hardy's 'The Oxen'.

The concert was in aid of the charity Family Links, who work extensively in Oxford within the schools of Blackbird Leys--a world away from the candlelit chapel, the peace, and the clear voices of the choir.  Family Links works with families and children at risk, giving them tools they need to calm the chaos and disruption of their lives.  A headteacher in one of the schools of Blackbird Leys, who works closely with these children and Family Links, told us the story of her lunchtime yesterday and illustrated the desperate need of so many of her children.

Yesterday was the school Christmas Dinner, complete with decorations, presents, snowflake making, tinsel, merriment, mayhem, and Father Christmas.  In the middle of the Christmas excitement sat a little girl on her own, a girl she called Katie.  Katie sat motionless and quiet with a stillness on her face and in her eyes that didn't come from peace, but from disruption and unhappiness.  She had just learned that she would be spending Christmas away from her mummy, away from her four siblings, and was to be taken into care.  She lived in a world very, very far removed from the glow of the chapel, the peace of the evening, and the purity of the voices of the schoolboys we were listening to.  As I listened to her story I thought of that other Christmas story, The Little Match Girl, and was so glad for Family Links, her safety net and life preserver.

The evening ended with the choir singing 'For Unto Us a Child is Born' from the Messiah, which about lifted Stuart and I right up off of our misericords, words from Charles Dickens and Mr. Pickwick, and from DH Lawrence's The Rainbow, 'Christmas is Coming'.  Stuart and I then floated out of the chapel and slowly walked back out through the main quad of New College and out the gate past the porter's lodge.  We walked across the street back home with a prayer on our hearts for little Katie and gratitude on our lips for the beauty to be found in the world; in a candlelit chapel, the clear and pure voices of a choir, and the hope recited in DH Lawrence's 'Christmas is Coming'.

"The expectation grew more tense.  The star was risen into the sky, the songs, the carols were ready to hail it.  The star was the sign in the sky.  Earth too should give a sign.  As evening drew on, hearts beat fast with anticipation, hands were full with ready gifts.  There were the tremendously expectant words of the church service, the night was past and the morning was come, the gifts were given and received, joy and peace made a flapping of wings in each heart, there was a great burst of carols, The Peace of the World had dawned, strife had passed away, every hand was linked in hand, every heart was singing."

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