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Festive season can hold something new for us all

Black Santa's diary: The Very Rev John Mann

Listening is hard work and whole courses are run on it, but we are still here on Christmas Eve. And I am reminding myself after days of the sit-out: Listen to what people are saying, not what you think they want to tell you.

That is true of the whole mystery of the story of Christmas; it is so familiar, we have heard it all before and we know what we are going to hear before the carols are sung or the readings are read.

But do we? Have we no child-like ability to be surprised by something new in something that is old? I hope we have.

Generosity of spirit comes as no surprise to me, shown financially through the Black Santa collection and in word and prayer, too.

It is reflected in memories from the past and frequently recalls things that have happened.

Some people make their donation in memory of a loved one.

As to the result of the appeal, if we have something between £150,000 and £160,000 by tonight, we shall probably make our target of £200,000, as parishes and community groups send cheques in the New Year.

We go to bed tonight with the expectation of Christmas Day tomorrow, the one day of the year when everywhere is closed down.

Parents of young children are probably tired and excited at the same time, but we remember also the elderly, the lonely and the sorrowful. There are those who work and those who give of themselves to make others happy at Christmas; neighbours, friends and relatives, just going that extra mile for another. Let us give them all a thought and a prayer; and try, as best we can, to listen to those we love.

The 11 days of the sit-out have been a great experience and we have got a bit wet at times, but, please God, we will do it again, to experience once more your joy, your company and the generous expression of your love for others.

In all the years of the Troubles, people used to say, "All I want for Christmas is peace."

Let us never lose what we have striven so hard to win and may I wish you all a very Happy Christmas!

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