We met, as so many locals do, at Yummy Noodles. Always a good meal, surrounded by lots of activity.
John Brook is familiar with life in the East, so it was without doubt the right place for us to have lunch. Indeed, as a boy growing up in Nepal, he used to accompany his family to Thailand for holidays, including visiting the southern province of Phuket, where my own sons spent their early years with my wife and me.
At this time in the calendar, John remembers celebrations of Christmas in many different environments, in the UK as well as overseas. He recalls that, with family and friends, the focus was ‘always on Jesus’. Perhaps rather inexplicably, he adds, “It was never about the presents, however excited I was.”
Now he has his own children, of course, and I asked him what he would wish them to know about the festival of Christmas.
“I want them to understand the reason for the season, why there is something worth celebrating.” I think he emphasised the ‘why’ of this explanation, as he quoted the well-used cliché, and rightly so.
At the moment, he is working through a Children’s Catechism with the youngsters – a lovely volume called ‘My First Book of Questions.’
I hadn’t mentioned it, but you might have guessed: John is a minister in the town, serving the community through his church at Sovereign Harbour. The congregation there is growing, and they have quite a programme of events for the month of December.
The distribution of advent calendars – ‘counting down to Christmas’ – has already passed, but plans are in hand for a nativity play and christingle service. There will be Carols on Christmas Eve, open to all at 8pm, and a gathering on Christmas Day at 10am.
As we concluded our conversation, I put it to John that people who do not recognise the real meaning and purpose of Jesus coming into the world are missing something important. “Yes, they end up with an empty shell”, he suggested, “celebrating a celebration, but with no heart to it. They miss out on an encounter with God, their Creator; they miss out on the hope of eternity.”
In this respect, here is a wonderful New Testament verse to meditate on: ‘This statement is completely reliable and should be universally accepted – “Christ Jesus entered the world to rescue sinners “ (1 Timothy 1, 15).
Many questions passed between us, but one that my companion did not answer that day was “What present would you like for Christmas?” Probably a secret.