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The first time I ever came across the idea of a Banner Group was as a member of St Andrews Church, Carluke, when a small group decided that the bare walls could do with some cheering up, and so they set to work.
The first banner they produced was for Christmas and, being their first attempt, it was very simple – simple, but very beautiful. It had a pale grey background, a brown stable, Mary in blue, Joseph in sandy-coloured clothes and, of course, a little manger with (if you got close enough) a tiny head resting on yellow straw. Above it all, there was a star – a four-pointed star, with the 3 points at the top and sides of equal lengths and the point reaching down to the Bethlehem scene a lot longer. I think there were some words too, somewhere, but I confess I’ve forgotten – it was the picture which has stayed with me forever.
Because, some weeks after the banner had been dedicated and hung in its place of honour, I happened to glance up at it during one of the Christmas carols. Maybe I was seeing it at a different angle, or maybe the light was brighter that day, but very suddenly I saw that, sewn inside the star, was a cross. The star of Bethlehem, containing the Cross of Calvary. That split second put the Christ into Christmas for me. A reminder that, cosy as Christmas can seem, that tiny baby, God’s only son, grew to give his very life for love of us.