Christmas in Aleppo

On December 23rd Millburn Academy had their annual Christmas assemblies - each one a full period for the whole year group. Each one a delightful mix of festive tunes from strings, wind band, big band, bagpipes and all sorts (and the occasional bit of singing along from the pupils - I heard you!)

The only thing that is different about each assembly is the Minister's Address; so it has to be all at once interesting, informative, thought-provoking, entertaining, accessible and different to what the others have said. No pressure then.

I wrote a poem for the S2 assembly (much like last year) and titled it "Christmas in Aleppo." I share it with you today because in the Orthodox Church, and so, Aleppo today is Christmas Day!

I was just out shopping the other day

Along with EVERYONE else I must say.

Everyone there loading up at the tills

Bag after bag after bag after bag they fill…

Because Christmas is here – IT’S HERE – don’t you know?

But before we can celebrate, it seems we must go

To the shops and spend all of our hard-earned dough

On stuff we might like. For a day-or-so…

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think I’m a Scrooge

We’re doing Christmas at ours and it’s gonna be huge!

But right here and now in this assembly hall

We can just stop to think on the meaning of it all.

You know in the Bible it says Christmas day

We celebrate how – when all else fails – there’s a way

To see light in the darkness – a renewal of hope

When we’re lost, beaten, broken and life’s on the ropes

If we’re at the edge of all but despair

God’s word took on flesh to show us He’s there.

You’ve all heard the story: angels, Mary, Joseph, donkey, Bethlehem, stable, shepherds, silent night, baby bright, star in the sky, wise men try to follow with gold, frankincense, myrrh, king Herod, and so it goes on and… Exhale…

Though maybe it’s become just a little bit stale?

I’m not here to tell you what to believe

About what happened that first Christmas eve

But I am here to say there may be more things to know

When we look at that story from long, long ago.

Even if you think the story’s not true

there’s still a great message in it for you…

That hope, love and faith can triumph still

Even when the world wishes you ill.

In those days it was true as much as today

That a little light in the darkness can go a long way.

And so to the situation right here for us;

Hoping for a comfy Christmas – minimal fuss.

What about others all around the world?

It’s Christmas in Aleppo where bombs are being hurled!

It’s Christmas in Haiti with earthquakes, corruption;

It’s Christmas in Taal with a volcano eruption.

It’s Christmas in Burundi where poverty rules;

It’s Christmas in Niger where war’s being fuelled.

It’s Christmas in Chapecoense with loved ones lost

It’s Christmas in prison where freedom’s the cost

for the things people did but then got caught

and are paying the price – but spare them a thought!

It is Christmas right here and it’s also Christmas there;

And I think it’s good news when you go anywhere.

That no matter the hurt or the pain or despair…

Love breaks the darkness; song fills the air!

“Joy to the world” the messengers shout;

Will we take notice what the news is about?

That story should teach us – we need to make known…

That hope and love make a difference wherever they’re shown.

Whether it’s Bethlehem 2000 years ago,

Or Inverness now, or the streets of Aleppo;

Let the light shine in the darkness this Christmas!

Wherever you go; you’re always there.

And you’ve got some Christmas magic to share!

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