Ramblings from the Cove...

January 2006

By Lars Gren

During the day, only a handful of people would move through the room. Some would sit and read while others passing through might stop and just glance for a moment at the water as it moved past them. Oh yes, there were also those who found it the perfect spot for a morning or afternoon cat-nap. There were tables for 2, 4, 6 or more in the somewhat circular room with a small dance floor and, of course, a fair-sized bar at one end. Looking around, one could see that expense was of no concern to the decorator.

A few times we sat down after our early dinner to enjoy the string or piano music, but left before the evening’s festivities went into full swing. The room, I suppose, would seat a couple of hundred or so. A “sell-out crowd” would be possible since there were 1,500 plus, supposedly enjoying this Christmas “boat ride” in the Caribbean.

Today was different, though, being Christmas Eve and we were gathered with seven others for services. A few tables had been moved and several rows of chairs were in place, much as in a storefront church. The front row was empty, as normally it is, and the “congregation” spread out. I wondered how we would sound, sans music, on a rousing rendition of Hark! The Herald Angels Sing." With our backs to the bar, we faced the priest standing behind the narrow table having been transformed into an altar by a cloth runner and the cross. It all seemed odd since the priest had been asked to fill in for the absent Protestant Chaplain. Still it is the old old story of Mary, Joseph, and the Child that would be the center of the readings.

The priest began with greetings and prayers. The surroundings were forgotten; “In those days a decree went out….” we were anticipating the rest when, as he read “I bring you good news of great joy…”, a jubilant voice greeted us through the loudspeaker: ““Merry Christmas boys and girls! Get your parents to bring you to Deck #5 for -- guess whose coming?!? Yes, Santa Claus! Will he come by land or air or sleigh? Come and see!” Then, peace reigned and the priest continued reading...but not for long. With top billing, we were again “treated” to another call to come to deck #5 to see and get our treat from Santa Claus before we could hear “all that had been told to them in that day.”

The following day there was a Christmas Day service. Santa Claus had come and gone and all would be well. But it was not to be. Behind the so-called Crystal room there was the casino. Wouldn’t you know that, in the middle of the prayers, someone hit the jackpot, which set off bells and clanging noises that drowned out anything that the priest was reading. We did get back to the prayers and the service went on uneventfully with no further “lucky players.” But my mind drifted a bit. I wondered about the scene in the stable below the inn. Was it a stormy night or moonlit, a quiet or rowdy area of Bethlehem? Were the animals the only comforting presence or did someone come in to stable his donkey and give a greeting? Might the sounds from the inn have disturbed the Three? Could a caravan of traders have arrived at the inn and were they having a rousing party? Now, as I think, had I been there that night, would I have been in the inn or sought my way to the manger? Day by day I need the call to the manger. It is so easy to be drawn to the inn.

God bless y'all,

L and E

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