Beit Lahem – The House of Bread

Midnight Mass 2013:  Beit Lahem – The House of Bread.

beit lahemIt’s not Christmas without the ‘Christmas Special’.  Call me old and past it if you like, but – they don’t make them like the used to!  Except perhaps for Dr. Who and we’ll have to wait till the evening of Christmas Day for that.  The timeless episode of Fr. Ted springs to mind where the Priests out Christmas shopping inadvertently run into the largest lingerie department in the country – apparently.  Complete with unwanted Christmas guests and an award or two.  Of course the Jewel in the crown of Christmas specials in my opinion dates from Boxing Day 1977, the last but one aired episode of The Good Life.

Christmas – according to Margo came in a van – but owing to the fact that the tree delivered was 6 1/4 inches too short meant that the whole delivery was sent back.  Christmas – come the day itself has not been delivered, at least not at the Leadbetters.  With Jerry down with a dose of political chicken pox Jerry and Margo accept the invitation to Tom and Barbara’s for the day.  Typically, the Good’s Christmas is simple, yet simply the best they have ever had, especially with the absence of Mrs Dooms-Patterson on the social horizon.  For Jerry and Margo, Tom and Barbara’s Christmas was a Beit Lahem – a house of bread.  A place of hospitality and welcome, where one was able to let one’s hair down, even if chased into it by Tom with Mistletoe!  Bread is a symbol of hospitality.  We break bread and share a cup of wine this night.  It makes sense this night of all nights as a symbol of the Hospitality of God come to earth in the form of a child.

Terry Pratchet wrote in the Hogfather on Hope.  Whilst Death, (impersonating the Hogfather to keep belief alive) is giving children what they want for Hogswatch, (similar to our Christmas) Albert (David Jason) impersonating an elf suggests that you shouldn’t give children what they ask for because then there is nothing to hope for.  If all your hopes are realised in one day, then there is nothing to hope for tomorrow.  Bread today fills today’s hungry bellies.  But bread promised for tomorrow, now you can sell that forever. Death disagrees and fills the child’s stocking.

The hope for the future that is promised at Christmas in the God-child is a hope for a brighter future – one based upon the kingdom that Jesus taught of and lived out in his own life.  Jesus taught to live each day as it comes.  If we live according to his kingdom, bread everyday can be a reality.  That’s something worth hoping for, especially with the growing poverty here in the UK.  At the end of the film Hogfather we see Terry Pratchet the author in a cameo role as the toymaker selling Death the carved wooden horse that Albert hoped for all his life.  Hope for tomorrow means little and leaves us empty without bread for today.  As you leave tonight you’ll be offered a spiced sweet bread.  Bread for the journey, for today.  Full of eastern promise for tomorrow.  (checks watch) Merry Christmas.