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Junes Jottings 

Christmas is coming, the
geese are getting fat, please
put a penny in the old man’s
hat, if you haven’t got a penny
a ha’penny will do, if you
haven’t got a ha’penny God
bless you.
 
I remember having that rhyme
sung to me often when I was a
small child and in turn singing
it to my own children when
they were really young. It’s a
strange rhyme though isn’t it?
I mean ‘Christmas is coming
the geese are getting fat ‘ is
fair enough – I think people
used to prefer a goose at Christmas rather than the turkey that has become traditional today – but why was the old man passing his hat around? What was he collecting for? But, if I’m honest it’s the last line that gets me, ‘If you haven’t got a penny a ha’penny will do, if you haven’t got a ha’penny God bless you’.
 
Now, I was born in the year of decimalisation, but even I know that a ha’penny (or half a penny) was not a lot of money, whoever it was that was passing the hat round, so to speak, wasn’t asking for a fortune – but some people didn’t even have that.

This Christmas, instead of getting caught up in all of the excitement and planning that I usually do, I find myself a little more reflective than usual. This has been a weird couple of years that we have lived through – Covid stole many of our planned family gatherings and our celebrations
recently and last Christmas, for many of us, was much smaller and quieter than we had hoped and planned. But for others covid stole much more than our plans, it stole our loved ones as they died too soon of this dreadful illness; it stole our jobs as lockdown meant that businesses were
closed, and for some of them that meant permanently; it stole our homes as financial insecurity meant that we couldn’t pay the rent or the mortgage, and this year for some people things are just as tough.

Inflation is racing away at over 4% which means that our money simply doesn’t go as far as it did this time last year and on top of that many electricity and gas companies have gone bust (mine included) and so I find myself back with one of the bigger companies paying a much higher rate
than previously, having to be very wise as to whether to put the heating on at home or not. The price of petrol is now so high that travelling to family gatherings (if they aren’t cancelled again) has to be planned much more carefully than before.

So many people in our world today don’t have a spare ha’penny, so many people who once could feed themselves and their families now rely on the help of the foodbanks, and as the weather turns icy cold again our heart goes out to those forced to sleep on the streets, huddled in shop doorways or anywhere that offers respite from the biting wind.
 
 

But the rhyme says if you haven’t got a
ha’penny God bless you, and how
does God bless people? Well, occasionally through miraculous provision and divine intervention, but
most often through the work of his
saints – his ordinary people, people like you and me. We give thanks that, as desperate as food banks are and however much we wish they weren’t
needed, that someone took the initiative and started one once and that, now, people all over the UK can go and get food that has been donated to them.


We praise God for organisations like Shelter and the Salvation Army who try and support those living on the streets and provide hot dinners and soup kitchens. We thank God that He has called so many of his churches to open their doors to provide a safe warm and dry place to sleep.

And so the challenge goes out to us this year, as we start to plan and shop and celebrate and gather; how can we be a blessing to those who don’t have a ha’penny? How can we bless others? Maybe as we shop, dropping an extra can or two of something nice into the foodbank trolley. Maybe deciding to spend less on presents so that we can give more to those charities who work right there in the thick of things. Or maybe we can get involved practically and volunteer our

time, our efforts and our energies into making this Christmas a bit better for those who are really struggling. We might not have a lot, but we have enough. How can we be a blessing to
others this Christmas? As we plan our feasts and our
gatherings and our special services this year, as we
roast the turkey (or the goose or the mushroom
wellington!) let’s be generous and open and giving to
those who don’t have what we have. And God Bless
You.