Merry Christmas to all

Bashar visits Christian village outside Damascus on Christmas

Christmas celebration in Aleppo:

Link: Children from a Shia orphanage sing Christmas carols at a Beirut cathedral

Bartella, Iraq, October 22:

Hussam Matti knelt to the ground, grabbed two fistfuls of brown-gray sand and poured it over his head. The grains mixed with the sweat on his brow as he stood up, smiled and threw up his arms.

“This is the earth of Bartella,” he shouted. “This is our land.”
But for Matti, despite the dangers, it was nothing short of a homecoming.

“In these two years I died. The 32 years I’ve lived so far — you can forget about them. Today I’m born,” he said, as he and his comrades, all members of a Christian militia known as the Nineveh Plains Force, lashed two pieces of timber to make a cross.

They carried it to the top of Mar Shmony, a church on the town’s eastern flank. There, ringed by counterterrorism service members who urged them to watch for sniper fire, they hoisted the cross over the church’s dome and adorned it with an Iraqi flag. One man, with a touch of ceremony, placed a nativity scene set he had fished out from the wreckage of the church at the cross’ base.

A multi-credal nationalism emerges across the Middle East, in opposition to Wahabbist hegemony funded by the Saudi and Qatari royals.

Elsewhere, remnant Anglicanism sputters on:

At the end the Vicar paused, beamed at us, and prepared to give us our Christmas blessing, at which point the organist launched into the cheerful tunes of dismissal. I commiserated with her [ouch. and we were doing so well] over a drink later. “I was only going to say Merry Christmas” she lamented. I assured her that her intentions had been sensed by the congregation, but that our services moved in a mysterious way.

In terms of demographics, the congregation of about 45 souls had the one young girl who read the lesson, her 19 year old brother, one 30 year old, but was otherwise skewed in the 45 to 93 years old direction, with a peak towards the latter years. There was one farming couple, one neighbour whose grandfather served in the Great War, but few of the rest had been born in the Parish. All congregants were Anglo-Saxon.

Leaving the church, a celebrant said it felt as if this was one of the last village services, and the end of an age.

In Church Going Philip Larkin worried,

A shape less recognisable each week,
A purpose more obscure. I wonder who
Will be the last, the very last, to seek
This place for what it was.

It's all about Who lives Where. And Christianity depends on living, breathing, worshiping Christians. And when it's gone, it's gone.