Sprinkling the Magic Dust

Growing up in the south of Ireland, one of the highlights of every year was the Late Late Toy Show. It’s normally broadcast on the last Friday in November, and tens of thousands of children around the country audition to get on the show to demonstrate some of the toys that are in demand for the coming Christmas.

The show is live streamed now around the globe and the Irish diaspora tune in, in huge numbers. There are viewing parties in houses around the country as children and adults gather around to see the toys and the surprises that might unfold. Hundreds of thousands of people apply for the few hundred tickets that are available for the studio audience, and it is certainly the hottest ticket in town on that particular night. This year, there was a new host, Co. Down man, Patrick Kielty, and he did an incredible job, allowing the children and the toys to shine. Very unusually for me, I was away for the weekend, but I got my wife to record the show and I wasn’t disappointed as Patrick, with the help of many others, helped to spread the magic dust.

Some of my highlights were seeing 8 year old Sophie Quirke, from Thurles in Co. Tipperary, watching the show in her pyjamas with her family and friends and there was a knock at the door. Outside, was a magic bus waiting to take her and her family to Dublin to test some toys on the show. As she did some testing on some dolls, the last doll had a ticket for this Disney mad young lady to go to Walt Disney World in Florida for a week with flights and accommodation all paid for.

I loved seeing 7 year old, Stevie Mulrooney from Kilkenny, a sports mad little boy displaying his football skills with Patrick, who invited him to sing. Dressed in his Ireland kit, with his hand on his heart, he started to belt out Ireland’s Call, the anthem for the Irish Rugby team, with his eyes closed. It was like he was transported to the Aviva Stadium, just before kick off, as he sang with such heart and emotion. As his eyes were closed, out walked two current internationals, Bundee Aki and Peter O’Mahony, who presented him with a signed jersey and tickets for a Six Nations game against Italy. When asked by the host what did he think, he said very simply, “This is the best day of my life!”

The other moment that brought a big lump to my throat was during the slot when Patrick played video clips of family members overseas sending greetings to their loved ones at home. They came from all around the globe and Patrick sat down beside grandmother, Carol O’Brien from Navan, in Co. Meath. She watched a message from her daughter, Joanne, son-in-law Richard, and grandchildren, Ben and Eva, recorded in Perth, Western Australia. They were delighted to hear she had secured a ticket to the Toy Show and wanted to send her Christmas greetings as they hadn’t been home for 7 years. The thing was, they weren’t 9,200 miles away! They came out from behind the Christmas Tree in the Toy Show studio and the tears and screams of joy were such a lovely thing to behold.

At the heart of all these special moments were people. Whether it was family, sporting heroes, or getting to go to the most eagerly anticipated show of the year on television, incredible things happen when people work together.

We had our own sprinkling of magic dust at the weekend with the Cregagh Crafters hosting our Christmas Fair. It was a beautiful atmosphere as people made their way into the church hall, some from the church, many from the community. For many, it was their first time across the doors in a long time after periods of sickness and challenge. They saw old friends, enjoyed a beautiful morning tea or coffee with friends and family and reconnected with people. There were beautiful crafts on offer to buy.

On Advent Sunday, there was a very special atmosphere of worship at all our services, at the early Communion, the Connect Service in the church hall and the Advent Carol Service in the evening. There was a very real sense of people engaging with their whole hearts in all that was beginning to unfold in this special season of waiting and preparation. The Advent wreath, lovingly made by one of our parishioners, was lit with its first candle, reminding us of the light coming into the darkness.

Thursday sees the first of our Midweek Advent Services, as our curate, Andy, will lead our devotions, as we think about Bethlehem, shepherds and angels on the first three Thursdays in December at 7.30 pm. These short 35 minute services offer people an opportunity to stop and reflect.

This week the Mothers’ Union are inviting the congregation to join them in the hall for a tasty Advent supper after the service. It’s an opportunity to come across the illuminated gentle path that now connects the church and the hall.

As this season gets underway can we, as the ‘church without walls’ spread and share, not just magic dust, but the love of God as we carry his presence within us? Can we be mindful of those going through difficult times? Sometimes, it’s as simple an act as writing a card or making a phone call or inviting someone for a coffee that makes all the difference. 

This morning, on the school run, I met the Dad of a classmate of Lucy’s. In the recent floods, their rented bungalow was completely flooded. Their son, who has profound special needs, had to be carried out above the water and was given a few weeks respite in Northern Ireland Hospice.

They have suffered a huge amount in recent years, with Dad having had a motorbike accident, a stroke, and now these devastating floods, mean they will be unable to return to their home. The insurance company are subsidising their temporary accommodation for a few months, but they must find somewhere new to live, put up hoists for their magnificent son and all their possessions were destroyed in the floods.

They are such beautiful, hospitable and kind people. Lucy has enjoyed some very memorable parties in their home and I felt very helpless hearing of all that has happened. If anybody wanted to contribute anything, however small, I would be delighted to pass it on. There are many demands on people’s resources at the present time and no expectations on my part, but many people working together can do incredible things.

Look forward to speaking again soon.

Much love to everyone,


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