It's Christmas Eve and I am just back in from walking the dog. And I am heartily glad I no longer have to turn out at the end of the evening to lead a midnight service. This always used to be the point where, having taken various Christmassy services all over the place for the best part of the month, the day itself was here and I had run out of ideas. All used up – and in one place where I worked the Christmas Eve service was a joint service with the parish church and, following a good old Anglican tradition, the Methodist minister preached the sermon.
We always had a fair smattering of rather boozy folk at those services and I have to admit to some sympathy with folk who found themselves sitting next to someone for whom it was a sort of extension of karaoke night at the Nags Head.
There was one occasion, however, when a young guy approached me as I walked up to the church and asked to have a word. He'd clearly been drinking heavily and would probably have struggled to follow what was going on. But that's not why I urged him to go home. What he specially wanted to tell me was that this was his first Christmas since his dad had died and he was suddenly overwhelmed with grief. He could barely hold back the tears. But he desperately wanted to be calm and strong for his mum and not let her see how upset he was.
I suppose I could have suggested that he come into the service and by the time it was over maybe he would feel calm and able to go home and be strong for his mum. But I suggested he should go straight home, never mind bursting into tears. “Just give your mum a hug and tell her how much you miss your dad. You will probably both have a cry together, but trust me, she'll appreciate that.”
It was one of many times when I never found out what happened next. But I would give the same advice again.