A quiet day of preparation, writing the third of my Christmas sermons and printing them off ready. But I still hadn't got something special to give to Clare instead of that new phone. After lunch I went hunting in town, and found something I was happy enough to give. It was a great relief. The mood on the street was quietly cheery. It's the two 'black' Fridays before Christmas when the office and works parties take place and the streets are a sea of inebriation.
I called into St John city Parish Church, hoping to greet Sarah the Vicar, but she was occupied with a congregation in a German carol service - a very nice touch indeed, considering that streets around St John's are occupied by the stalls of a German style Christmas market. The public address system along Working Street, where there are are series of bars and eateries, was pumping out jazzy versions of Christmas pop songs. I couldn't resist singing aloud as a strolled through.
On Castle Street, a dad was taking a photo of his two kids flanking Cardiff's post box painted gold in honour of our local Olympic winner. I paused until the snap was completed, to smile at the kids, and hear the mum speak French to her husband. Probably having a holiday break with us in Cardiff. This prompted me to wish them "Bonne fête de Noel' as I went on my way, feeling glad that we're so much a European city nowadays, something which Brexit politics and mindset will not be able to take away.
There were just over thirty of us for the six o'clock Vigil Mass at St German's. In a moment's distraction I succeeded in reading the Gospel for Advent four - the Matthean birth narrative, instead of one of the stories from Luke or from John's Prologue. I realised not long after I'd started, but decided just to keep going to the end. It was embarrassing because the correct reading was on the service sheet in people's hands, and I was reading from the Gospel book. It only took a moment to explain that the mistake made didn't mean the lesson had to be re-read, as my sermon involved working through the story meant to be read and making points about it. I wasn't on my best form. After the Eucharistic Prayer, I performed the Fraction (Breaking of the Bread) before instead of after the Lord Prayer - the way it's done in the old Church in Wales 1984 - not what I was using!
At the end, I learned from an older woman who has started attending in the past few months, and on this occasion was accompanied by her daughter, that they come from Albania. I didn't ask if she was Orthodox or Roman Catholic, but having recently learned that the roots of the seemingly obscure Albanian language are in ancient Greek, I wished her happy Christmas in (modern) Greek, and drew a smile. I love their natural and un-selfconscious expressions of piety. She's evidently comfortable in St German's, where nobody stares at you for expressing love for God, even if a majority express themselves in a reserved manner, apart from exuberant singing and smiling.
The roads were empty as I drove home, shops were shut and many of the pubs and club it seems were quiet or closing early as well. Urban bliss now, as the place exhausts itself of festivity after a couple of months of marketed anticipation. Owain had arrived by the time I got home, and there was enough time for supper together, and a little relaxation before returning to St German's by eleven for Midnight Mass. Again, we were just over thirty people, enthusiastically embracing the moment. This time, despite the hour, my concentration held throughout, and there were no more errors.
I drove home just after one, listening to the end of Midnight Mass on Radio Four. The house was quiet, Clare and Owain, already asleep. I mulled some wine for a nightcap, but had to settle for a chocolate biscuits, as there were no mince pies out. They were still hidden in the depths of the freezer. These days Santa has no need to call at Meadow Street.