There must be a collective noun for the making of lists, but I can’t find it. So, let’s try creating some. How about: a litany of lists, or, a cacophony, or perhaps, more gently, a hush?

Why am I interested? It’s because I am tempted this Christmas to list all those societies and charities which play such a major part in our area. 

At random, I could mention the Abbeyfield Society, the Farnham Castle Trust, Alms-house charities, Farnham Assist, the Arts Societies, the Rotary Clubs, the Lions, the Hedgehogs, the Women’s Institutes, the Homemakers,  Probus, the Rural Life Centre, the Museum Societies, Scouts and Guides, Rainbows, Brownies, Beavers, Cubs, Flower Arrangers, St John’s Ambulance, the Red Cross…

I won’t go on… but there are hundreds of them, groups of various shapes and sizes that exist for the well-being of others. And I haven’t mentioned any sporting groups: bowls clubs, football, rugby, and hockey teams, swimmers, runners, and ramblers, nor have I mentioned one of the largest groups of all – the U3A, nor the multitude of churches. 

There are so many voluntary organisations, it’s impossible name each one.

All these groups, plus many, many others, enliven our communities. They constitute what Edmund Burke called the ‘Little Platoons’; that is, alongside our families they are the bedrock of a healthy and vibrant society.

Now, please note this:  it was the little platoons that were the first to visit the Christ-child in the manger; a small group of shepherds, and a few wise men. 

There was no fanfare of trumpets when they arrived, no paparazzi, no flashing cameras, just a handful of people who recognised the truth revealed in that child’s birth.

For those little platoons two thousand years ago, and for the little platoons now, our warmest thanks. They are pointers to the beauties of eternity, aren’t they?