Christmas is all about the presents…

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'Santa' discovered at Trinity College, Bristol

Ordinand Emma Haggar shares the excitement of Christmas…. presents received (and stolen!), Santa discovered studying theology, and the best gifts of all


In two days I will have reached the end of my first term of theological college. It feels forever since I started, yet everything is still so new. So, here’s a whistle-stop tour of my first term…

  • I’ve studied Mission and Ministry, Old Testament, Theological Reflection, Church History, Christian Ethics, Spirituality, Preaching, and Anglican Story, Ethos and Practice.
  • I have led college chapel, led an 8am service and preached at the remembrance all age service at my context church.
  • I’ve been to workshops about mental health, addiction, wilderness times and reconciliation. I have been to the zoo and the cinema 4 times each!
  • I have shed tears and shared laughter too many times to count with the most incredible college community.
  • My legs no longer turn to jelly halfway up Whiteladies hill and I can turn to the right page in the Daily Prayer book with all the speed of a Wild West gunfighter drawing their weapon.
  • It has been hard and yet it has been great. I have missed home and the people I love and yet I have found a new home and a new community to love and be loved by. And now I’m coming home for 3 weeks holiday to catch up with old friends, sleep (a lot!) and probably write some stuff about God, the Church and poor old Marcion.

And I am very excited about Christmas! I love Christmas! There are lots of things I love about it but I wanted to write to you, dear readers, about the most important aspect of Christmas. Some even say it’s what Christmas is all about. Yes, that’s right…presents!

Last night we had our Carter (halls of residence) Christmas party and we played ‘Bad Santa’, which is like Secret Santa except you get the choice of picking a new present from the pile or stealing someone else’s. It was great fun with much hilarity and more thieving than you might expect from a normally angelic bunch of trainee priests and other assorted Christian folk! It has left me reflecting on the gifts this community has given me (aside from the Maltesers and Santa hat last night). Talking of Santa..I have just come face to face with him lounging on the sofa in the study area, drinking a cup of tea!

The first gift this college has given me is the gift of learning. When I was 10 years old I got sick with an illness called M.E. or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. It meant a childhood of part-time school, struggling through extreme tiredness to try and learn, disrupted friendships and leaving school with 2 GCSEs. Now, at the grand old age of 33 I get another chance at full-time education…and it’s amazing! I arrive in my study on Monday morning and all I have to do for the whole day is read and write essays! My early education was stolen by ill-health but Trinity College has gifted me another chance.

The second gift I am so grateful for is the community I have found here. I feel privileged to have known some pretty incredible people during my time working as a musician in Ipswich and the loss of being part of those communities has been a hard one to bear. But here at Trinity I have made new friends, found new confidants, and been accepted as part of a new, big college community and lots of smaller communities united by shared activities and concerns. In stepping away from my existing life I have been given the gift of new friendships.

And finally, because I’d probably be chucked out of ordination training if I honestly thought the best thing about Christmas was the presents, I’ve been given the gift of Jesus. Technically we all have, but I feel something of the newness of this gift being here, doing what I’m doing. I’m discovering new things about God, being assured in new ways of the things I already trusted, and meeting Jesus afresh through it all.

Merry Christmas everyone!


Emma is in her first year at Trinity College Bristol. She is from Ipswich and has been involved in various Christian projects, including Town Pastors and the Ipswich Christian Resource Library. She is an accomplished musician, with involvement in a number of local productions as well as previously practising as a private music teacher.
You can see all of Emma’s blog, ‘Thoughts on the way’ here
The thoughts expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of Network Suffolk