Unlike many of our expat friends, the Boy and I don't head home for Christmas. For the first three years we went on holiday for Christmas each year, and were usually underwater looking at fish on the morning of the 25th. However, last year we stayed in HK and as our move here feels more and more permanent, we are building our own Christmas traditions. This includes seeing our good friends and their daughter on Christmas Eve for dinner and then going to midnight mass together.
The Boy, being a heathen, partakes of the dinner and wine and then packs us off to our local Church. This year H, our nanny, was due to go to her Catholic church for midnight mass but a friend let her down so she came along with me, P and her 3 year old daughter A, to the service in a small Anglican Church behind the flat. The service and carols, the readings about a baby being born, the fragility of life, the whole magic of the Christmas story takes on a new meaning when you are experiencing this yourself first hand. I also found myself singing with gusto the words "holy infant so tender and mild" reminding the Bump what a good little baby should be like.
All was going well until the sermon, which was quite frankly rather odd. The service was led by M, himself a father of three children all under 5. He is a great vicar. Very informal, very family friendly, and an all round nice guy. However, his sermons can either be brilliant or somewhat esoteric.
When the sermon started "My son was born about 5 years ago and it was a magical event" P and I nodded wisely along with it as her daughter slept quietly in her arms. When he talked about the waters breaking, using the phrase "milky flow of waters", P and I looked at each other and got a little worried. Where, exactly, was this going? We were then told about the pain of childbirth in some graphic detail and the baby being covered in "blood and slime" when born and screaming at the top of his voice. Now I am a realist about the Christmas story, but even I don't want to think of God incarnate screaming at the top of his lungs in the stable while the shepherds stood around wondering what they might be able to do to help while two frazzled parents tried to calm the child. I imagine a discussion similar to "is this really the son of God? Did we see the star correctly or should we be next door?" and nervously looking in the other direction while Mary tried to figure out the best position for breast feeding the screaming infant. I can only hope that he had calmed down a bit before the wise men appeared, it doesn't quite suit the Christmas story to include Joseph saying sternly to his new son "Now if you don't quieten down then the nice men will take the gold and incense away again".
The point of the sermon was a good one, but by the time M talked about the difficulty in cutting the tough umbilical cord I think someone at the back may have fainted and H was wondering whether the hellfire and brimstone of her Catholic church might be a bit easier to stomach.