A message from our Minister, The Rev Dr Neil Dougall - December 2018

Saying goodnight to Jesus

201812 small‘Every night at bedtime my son insists that we go out and say goodnight to the stars’. I heard this comment in a podcast I was listening to as I was driving home one day. At some point this father had thought it would be a fun idea. He’d said to his young son, ‘Before you go to bed tonight, let’s go out and say goodnight to the stars’. What he hadn’t anticipated was that his son would make it into a ritual. Now every night at bedtime, he has to go out and spend a couple of minutes looking at the night sky with his son. Every evening he tries to think up a way to persuade his son to abandon this ritual. So, far, his wee lad, has not shown the slightest interest in stopping.

Despite the father’s reluctance he realises it is a blessing in disguise. He explained, ‘every night it helps me get perspective. When I look up at the sky stretching away to infinity it puts things in their place’.

Christmas is rushing towards us. I view its imminent arrival with anticipation and trepidation. It’s a time of joy and celebration, of fun and festivity. Naturally I look forward to it. It’s also a time of too much. It’s a time of consumption and indulgence, a time when we imagine that time is elastic. I fear that when Christmas day arrives I will be too jaded to enjoy it.

For Mary, Christmas Day must have been both wonderful and traumatic. She gave birth, to her first child, in a stable, far from home. Immediately shepherds visited. It must have been an incredibly full on day. So much happened in just a few hours. How did Mary respond?

Luke tells us, ‘Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart’ (Luke 2:19 ).

I imagine the stable scene after the shepherds had left. Joseph sits quietly in a corner lost in his thoughts. Jesus sleeps peacefully in the manger. Mary is both exhausted and exhilarated. Does she get out her phone and post an update? Does she lie down immediately and fall asleep?

Perhaps, but first she takes a moment to ponder. Before the day passes she stops to remember. She pauses to reflect. She notices what has been happening. She collects the experiences and stores them in her memory so she can go back to them in days to come.

The little boy who insisted on saying goodnight to the stars can help us do what Mary did. Every day the boy’s father was reluctant to do it. Every day he discovered that, in fact, it didn’t take up much time. Yet those few minutes helped him gain perspective.

In our house we have a wooden nativity scene which comes out of its box at the start of Advent. Every night between now and Christmas, I am going to try and remember to say goodnight to Jesus. Every night I am going to spend a couple of minutes looking at the nativity scene. I’m going to pause and remind myself of what lies at the heart of all our Christmas activities. I’m going to use these couple of minutes to ask God to help me find perspective during these busy weeks.

You might like to do something similar. You could buy a Christmas candle, light it each evening, and spend a few moments saying goodnight to Jesus. You could use an Advent Calendar or your Christmas tree to do this. There’s no end to the possibilities. Follow your imagination. My guess is, that our Christmas will be much richer if we carve out just a couple of minutes each day to ponder the birth of Christ. We will reap the rewards if we remember to say goodnight to Jesus.


‘Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:19 )


Gentle God,
       you know that for us,
       this is a season of hopes and fears.
We are caught up in our excitement and plans.
We worry whether everything will get done,
       and whether our relationships will blossom, bend or break in the stress of the season.
Slow us down, God
       and help us to place our hope in you.
Be our calm centre
       that we may be channels of peace to those around us;
       through the grace of Jesus Christ. Amen.

(Ruth C Duck)

To see other messages from Neil, click on the appropriate month in the table below.

December 2018 January 2019 February 2019 March 2019 April 2019 May 2019 June 2019 July 2019 September 2019 October 2019 November 2019
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