STOP - you can't go any further! Two thirds of the car park is still under deep snow and you'll get stuck if you try to proceed. Even the snow clearing machine recognised that it was an impossible task.
STOP - this is actually a junction and traffic may be coming from your left. Therefore, stop and look before you move off ... not that there was much traffic today ... and what there was crawled over the bumpy icy compacted snow at less than 5 mph.
However ... the sign made me smile for another reason. ("It takes little to amuse the innocent" was a phrase you'd often have heard in our house!) STOP this snow! Enough already! The normally green landscape has become a monochrome white and grey with even most of the coloured cars so covered in grit that they blend in. So STOP snowing!
It was pretty. Now it is inconvenient. And for some it is downright dangerous and a real problem. My little frozen taps and washing machine pale into insignificance when you see some of the hardships that others face and the risks that have to be taken to keep essential services operational. STOP - we've had enough, more than enough, of this unseasonal weather.
And then it made me think a bit more.
STOP and remember. We're doing all this preparation for a reason - for a celebration! In the busy days and hours we must stop, at least in our spirits, and think why it is all happening.
The great privilege that clergy have is to celebrate Holy Communion around the parish at such a time as this. Over and over I've read the Gospel account of the promise of God's anointed Messiah. One of his titles is "Emmanuel" - and each time I've come to that part of the narrative the words come with fresh impact as if they're written in bold and in large capitals:
GOD IS WITH US!
What's not to celebrate?!
Let the party begin!!
Of course we want to gather with family and friends and rejoice in all God's goodness. We need to have fun and to enjoy the celebrations. That's what birthdays are for ... the story is told ... each year in words and music we hear again the account of Jesus' birth. Each year it comes with fresh impact.
This is the 'real meaning' of Christmas ... the remembering of Jesus' birth, the fun and laughter, the caring for the poor and needy, the special food and the inclusion of all at the Christmas table ... No doubt there are some who choose to ignore the deeper meaning ... but maybe even in their enjoyment of the festivities something of the secret slips into their minds and hearts. Inevitably there are those who over-indulge and over-spend ... but this hardly warrants the "bah humbug" resistance to all that is joyful! Let the people rejoice and allow God to use all means to speak the amazing story of love.
For many, the meaning of Christmas is not lost. It's still there in the happy mix of sacred and secular, of faith and fun, of recreation and relaxation ... Jesus is at the centre and so we STOP to remember ... this is a joyful celebration of God's love for us in sending "Jesus ... who will save his people from their sins." That's the message Joseph heard and it is the message we proclaim. "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners."
If I hadn't already got my sermon for Christmas morning Eucharist ... this wouldn't be a bad message to proclaim.
STOP - this is a day to celebrate Jesus' birth and to share the good news with others.
O come, O come, Emmanuel,
and ransom captive Israel,
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear.
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.
Church Hymnal number 135