I think I can be forgiven for talking about Christmas, at least until the end of January even though the decorations have all been put away, and the Christmas tree has been chopped up and disposed of, making me feel, rather guiltily, as if I were getting rid of a dear friend!
Following on the theme of my last blog, something else that took me completely by surprise this year was the number of Christmas cards I got from people I didn’t know. Each autumn the Salvation Army in the UK publishes a list of all the British Salvation Army officers who are working overseas, with the suggestion that readers might remember them at Christmas time. I had never realised how many people took that request seriously, and this year I have been one of the recipients of this unsung ministry. I really have been deeply moved by their thoughtfulness, and felt that this quiet ministry should be trumpeted for all to hear, taking seriously the Bible verse in Matthew chapter 6, which suggests that what is given in secret will be rewarded openly!
So here they are! Give it up for:
Guernsey Corps, Warrington YP Corps, Whittlesey Corps, Maidstone Corps Junior Soldiers and Corps Cadets who all signed their card. Also, Beryl from Luton corps, Douglas Corps, Brenda from Eastbourne Corps, Louise at Malvern Corps, Williamstown Corps who made the card at their cafe church and promised to pray for me. Then there was Margaret at Scholing, Southampton, Corps, Molly representing Bo’ness Corps, Constance at Woodford Corps, Merthyr Tydfil Corps, Windsford Corps in Cheshire, Birkenhead Corps, Hythe Corps, Darlington Corps, Lakeside Salvation Army Community Church, Doncaster. There was a ‘big hug’ from Stu, Karen and Chester, the dog, from Stockton, the men and staff at the Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation Centre in Atlanta, USA, Miriam representing Hoyland Common Corps, Letchworth Corps Junior Soldiers whose card came complete with a smiley face, and Falmouth Temple Corps Home League.
Thank you all so much for making me feel loved this Christmas time. May God honour this unseen, but oh so effective ministry.
As well as these unexpected cards there were cards and letters from the folk who usually send to me. I have to admit to being one of those people who really love this custom of being able to remember, at least once a year, friends from the past, as well as the present, through the sending and receiving of these annual missives. For example, I wait to hear from Rob and Rita who always, at the end of their news, write a paragraph about Simon, their son, who went to Heaven when he was 15 and would have been 33 this year. This year’s paragraph ended with: ‘O how blessed we were to have him for those few (15) years’.
I end with a quote from another Christmas letter which I found to be deeply moving and inspirational. It came from a retired Salvation Army missionary officer who now lives in a residential home for the elderly, who described how her physical senses are deteriorating as she gets older. Then she concludes:
‘The other day, it was a lovely day and I said to one of the staff how I’d love to put on my walking shoes and go for a long country walk, then said, ‘but those days are over.’ Then I thought to myself, ‘No they’re not, I’ll soon be walking in the New Jerusalem,’ and I thought of the negro spiritual:
‘I got shoes, you got shoes
All God’s children got shoes.
When I get to Heaven going to put on my shoes
Goin’ to walk all over God’s Heaven!!!
………And so I shall’