Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

For most people, the last day of the year is usually December 31st.

For me, it’s always been December 24th.

Advent is just a long wind-down period. I’m never looking forward to new year, only to leaving work to go home for Christmas.

Ah yes, that last day at work before Christmas. The office is unusually quiet. There’s the occasional phone call, and unexpected visitor, for someone else. There’s not much work left, you’re mucking about, you’re going home at lunchtime, and hardly anyone else was at work that morning anyway.

Or that’s the way it’s usually been for me in secular employment anyway.

This year however I was working at the Christian Broadcasting Association.

And, yes, I was sitting there all alone, cracking through some long-outstanding low-priority editing, while the occasional phone call, and unexpected visitor, came in for someone else. Normality.

And then there’s Christmas Eve in the afternoon, which this year happened on a Saturday. Tearing around with a shortlist of gifts to tick off. Yeah, that’s normal too, but here’s the thing:

While doing my last-minute Christmas shopping, I usually bump into loads of people I know. Not just people who I know today but people from years gone by. Old schoolfriends, forgotten faces from college, and usually some old mate from church, who since disappearing 6 years ago after getting married, has now disturbingly put on 20 years and a push-cart.

But this year, again, I was in Auckland.

Richmond Bridge, the H37 buses and the Bentalls Centre were too far away for me to run into any old friends now.

But then… I’ve been living here for 18 months now… hasn’t that been long enough to make some new old friends?

After completing my Bible study and prayer-time in sunny Myers Park, I headed off down Queen Street to do my ‘rounds’. Christmas Cards from the Warehouse, and then off to 24/7 Food Town. I prayed that God would lead me to some vegan biscuits for Patrick, and got distracted by a book on popular conspiracy theories – which actually conceded that Jesus’ crucifixion was an extremely tough one to challenge.

Back to ACB – the backpackers where I had spent 9 months of my life, to drop off a card and bag of sweets. Caught up with friends there. I will never know in this life if my daily Christian witness there meant diddly-squat to anyone, but it feels encouraging to be told “You are so f*cking nice.”

Catching the bus up to New Windsor, I dropped in on Patrick at Hope City Radio. I’ve been dropping off the prerecorded tapes of my show That Friday Feeling here for ages, but I haven’t actually seen Patrick for well over a month now.

I was therefore slightly taken aback to learn that the studio cassette-player has been bust for an uncertain number of weeks, and several of my shows have not yet in fact been broadcast.

Anyway, I gave him the vegan biscuits I’d bought. Surprisingly, Patrick had never come across this brand before, which pleased me because I’d expected a vegan to have long-since exhausted his comparatively limited choice of processed food.

(and they were tasty bisucits too)

So then it was back to Symonds Street, to hunt for Albatross. When I’d met him a few weeks ago, he’d told me he was working at a hotel along here, but I had no recollection of which one. I wanted to invite him to come join Shane and myself for Christmas Day, if he was free. Alas, I checked every hotel I could find, but to no avail. After returning a trolley I’d come across to Food Town just before they closed, it was time to jump on the bus back home again, with a few chocolatey gifts to share with my flatmates.

But there’s something else about Christmas Eve.

It’s a moment. I witness it every year, no matter what country I’m in.

I’m always in a shopping area. Once I was in Richmond, another on a bench outside Marks and Spencer in Kingston, and this year I was sitting down writing cards at Food Town by Auckland Harbour.

The shops are closing. People are going home. The crowds are dispersing. Most of them have just finished the mad mad rush that was the year gone by.

And now it’s all over. The last spurt of Christmas shopping finally releases them to go home to their families, and probably a few days of respite from whatever daily stresses and challenges their walk through life had been trying to convince them were normal.

And I always just sit there, and I watch them all go away to their homes.

And then there’s a peace. A very beautiful, almost tangible peace that they all leave behind them. I always wonder whether that’s just my own personal sense of release from my own daily problems, or the very real presence of the Holy Spirit.

So I always sit there, give thanks to God, pray, and then I go home too.


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