The liturgical high point of the nursery nativity service (ah! but there are so many) comes when I lead the children around the church singing Away In A Manger while I carry a helium-filled balloon star. But this year I was caught out having forgotten to buy one. On Sunday evening I popped a note through the letterbox of the florist's in the village (they also sell balloons) to ask whether they could put one aside for me. It was only on Monday morning that I remembered that there was a backup option - the silver foil star-on-a-stick the Infants School had used for their Christmas production last week. On my way to church in the wind and sleet I went to borrow that, and then battled round to the florist's where a balloon was indeed waiting for me - blue rather than silver or gold, but it was considerably better than nothing. But when I got into the church and popped the balloon on the altar, instead of soaring upwards majestically it flopped straight to the floor! I would have to rely on the school star after all.
9.30 came and so did the nursery children, making their way along the footpath with the staff, nearly sixty souls all told. I said hello and we lit some candles and I turned to my props - and the balloon was now floating! As Rick our verger pointed out to me later on, it must have been the chilly weather outside the church contracting the helium so that the balloon failed to inflate properly; brought into the warmer surroundings of the church its aeronautic qualities were restored.
That's the scientific explanation. I and the children agreed it was a Christmas miracle, or an Advent one.