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Viewpoint from Tony Mallion 24/12/10

Tony Mallion
Cliff Park Community Church
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As you drive along the Gorleston bypass it’s hard now to recall that this road was once an important railway line linking Great Yarmouth to Lowestoft. Passengers joined it at the imposing Southtown Station, a building whose past is now marked, thanks to the recent blue plaque fixed to the wall of the Nelson medical centre.
Dr Beeching’s axe fell and the line was eventually closed. Gorleston Station with its platforms, footbridge, extensive sidings and signal box (where my grandfather was once the signalman) was no more. Today there’s a roundabout, a pleasant open green and a cycle and footpath where it all stood.
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The station’s main approach was from Lowestoft Road, with buildings and room for vehicles to pull in. Facing it was the Station Hotel, another impressive building. It long ago ceased to be a working pub but instead was tastefully transformed into a family residence. It is this building which always reminds me of the Christmas story.
Just after the war the then Vicar of Gorleston, Canon Ernest Corbell, suggested St Andrew’s should consider extending its mission to the south of the parish. By the early 1950s this led to a Sunday school being established for a time in the outbuildings of the Station Hotel, run by a Miss Sparkes. I know, because at the age of four, I was one of those who attended.
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If you look at the building the sign, Station Hotel, remains on the wall. And one of the outbuildings is also still there as its garage. On its red bricks are clearly displayed – and I’m so glad this is preserved – the words ‘Good stabling, motors, carriages’
So I’m always reminded where I had my first real meeting with Jesus, and the Bible. You can see where this is going……Luke, in his gospel, gives us the detail of the birth of Jesus. Joseph and the heavily pregnant Mary were forced to travel for three days from their home town of Nazareth to Bethlehem in order to be registered for the Roman version of the Poll Tax.
The Bible tells us: ‘While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.’ So there it is. Jesus, born in a stable at the back of a pub.  
The shepherds were the first to discover him, summoned we’re told, by a heavenly choir. Almost two thousand years later those of us who went to that Sunday school had another encounter with the same Jesus, also in a stable.
As Christmas comes round again, with all that it brings, it may be worth pausing to think about what we are celebrating. And the good news is you don’t have to find a stable to find Jesus