The Holly and the Ivy… and the Love
We asked MAGGIE STRINGER, Quaker and writer, and to say something about what Christmas means to her. We are delighted with her contribution. Thank you, Maggie…
By MAGGIE STRINGER
In my life, the Christmas festive season has always included a family-and-friends march-cum-stroll into the nearest coppice or even woods or at the least along an innocent country lane, in order to acquire the magical green and red of berry-bearing holly, along with ivy trailers that never seemed to end at the right point!
Needless to say, though necessary to state in completing this idyllic picture, my brother and father invariably squabbled over who was to use the shears and who could manage the dangerously blunt and ineffective secateurs.
Meanwhile, we female family members, namely mother and I and friends, created our own pathways seeking out forgotten debris from the woodland floor, pine cones, broken twigs, non-soggy leaves and any other interesting items that we could spray and/or paint to construct pleasing natural arrangements to place around our home.
Of course, we had put in our order for suitable greenery from the competitive males of the species. After a couple of hours, the trees, shrubs and greenery had worked their magic, releasing a festive spirit amongst us.
Also, there was plenty of laughter on the way home as the male pack shared details of the challenges they had faced in order to get the best berry-laden holly and dense green ivy trailers. Sometimes they had found and been able to reach some green gold – mistletoe hiding high above them. The detailed intricacies of how they climbed up on each other to get to the mistletoe in the absence of a convenient step-ladder, always precipitated raucous laughter along with some ribald comments, some of which I didn’t understand!
Such memories of family events with the sharing of love, laughter, squabbles, making peace and experiencing the joy of being very much alive together have always been a fundamental part of my approach to life.
I was raised in a liberal Christian faith context and encouraged to seek what was true in life with love. Inevitably, as I grew older, my questions increased as I met people from a very wide diversity of cultural and religious backgrounds. Further travel adventures and working in a third-world country have all contributed to my experience and understanding of what is broadly termed spirituality. The result now is that the fundamental element in my approach to life is very similar to that which I started out with when I identified with the Christian perception of life.
I continue to seek that which is true with love but not in isolation from the physical realities of being human. For me this time of year, Christmas, is a time to focus on the wellbeing of all human beings because we are physically interconnected and mutually responsible for each other across the oceans and continents by virtue of actually being alive. This is my spiritual ethic. Furthermore, this interconnectedness involves the whole of this incredible universe and beyond.
Christmas is a time when we are invited to celebrate, to laugh, to love and to be joyful for the gift of this universe.
May 2021 be a time when the political and financial leaders of the world accept that they are stewards of this gift and need to take corporate responsibility for caring for it and all of us who live in it.
Maggie Stringer, a writer, and theologian with a doctorate in liberation theology, worked for many years with the Methodists in various parts of this country and abroad, notably in South America. Maggie is currently writing a book about her experiences there. She and her husband David moved to Pembrokeshire in early 2000 and she has been an active member of the Fishguard and Goodwick community, known and loved for her theatre skills, her great heart and her delightful upbeat humour.