I am sure many of you have by now got what modicum of Christmas spirit there is available.  Well, I do hope that is the case.  There is no doubt that the current economic situation has bitten, to various degrees, into the household budgets of all of us, but somehow this season of good will seems to keep on bringing some peace and a sprinkling of joy to so many.

At the recent BBC Berkshire Carol Concert in Reading Minster Church, the address covered all the amazing events of this celebration year.  Queen at 60 years our monarch, the Olympics, Bradley Wiggins and the Tour de France and Andy Murray winning his first slam tournament.  Yes it has been a great year, but let’s not forget it has been a great year for the choirs for now we really do sound like a cohesive group and I genuinely believe that 2013 can see our singing and general belief increase as we move forward to new songs and more fun.

I never underestimate the commitment of many of you and your unfailing support of what I am trying to achieve and yes, I know that comes at a cost, but I do hope that it is a cost you feel worthwhile.  I do aim to work hard to maintain the subscription levels at the same price again for 2013, even though some hall hire costs have risen by another 20%.  To me it’s about what the choir gives each of you and in many ways I hope it is more like a gift this opportunity to sing and take part as a group of dedicated people.  If we are going to think of gifts, this is the time to do it and I hope you will always remember that you give me something each week we get together and I hear the sound improve and swell.  Thank you for 2012 and your friendship, but thank you most of all for your singing.

I wanted to share a Christmas story with you all and whilst I do not know if this is a true event, I do know the message it contains is very powerful.  I am sure it has existed in different forms all across the web, but i first heard it about 20 years ago and recently revisited it to share the story with some people at a Carol service i attended.  It goes like this:

Once , there was a man who worked very hard just to keep food on the table for his family. This particular year a few days before Christmas, he got very angry with his little five-year-old daughter after learning that she had used up the family’s only roll of expensive gold wrapping paper.
As money was tight, he became even more upset when on Christmas Eve he saw that the child had used all of the expensive gold paper to decorate one shoebox she had put under the Christmas tree. He also was concerned about where she had got the money to buy what was in the shoebox.
Nevertheless, the next morning the little girl, filled with excitement, brought the gift box to her father and said, “This is for you, Daddy!”
As he opened the box, the father was embarrassed by his earlier overreaction, now regretting how he had been angry with her.
But when he opened the shoebox, he found it was empty and again his anger flared. “Don’t you know, young lady,” he said harshly, “when you give someone a present, there’s supposed to be something inside the package!”
The little girl looked up at him with sad tears rolling from her eyes and whispered: “Daddy, it’s not empty. I blew kisses into it until it was all full.”
The father was crushed. He put his arms around his precious little girl and held her close bitterly regretting his unnecessary anger.
An accident took the life of the child only a short time later. It is told that the father kept this little gold box by his bed for all the years of his life. Whenever he was discouraged or faced difficult problems, he would open the box, take out an imaginary kiss, and remember the love of this beautiful child who had put it there.
In a very real sense, each of us has been given an invisible golden box filled with unconditional love and kisses from our children, family, friends an, if you believe, from God. There is no more precious possession anyone could hold.

I do wish all of you a wonderful Christmas and a genuinely peaceful new year.