It’s Christmas time….

IMG_1366I know, before the liturgical police bust me, it’s still Advent. But after two Nativity plays, two Carol services and the first Christingle, it’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas (you can play ‘spot the songs’ if you like). I love Christmas. I love celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, and yes, I know that the chances of it actually being on 25th December are minimal. But it is beginning to feel a lot like Christmas. And how do I know?

It’s that stretched feeling. It’s not noticing when people are joking. It’s when I forget things, it’s when I don’t notice what is going on around me. It’s that feeling of having to be super organised, of being in the right place at the right time having set up the right people to read the right things. It’s the time when people expect certain things, regardless of whether they are daily present in churches, or whether this is the only time of year they worship in community. It’s that time of year when as a Christian priest, I (want and) am expected to connect with a huge range of people, each one of whom has their own Christmas story, their own set of memories, of past and present relationships, of ways of meeting God and of the times they want to forget.

Because this is the time when we think about God made human, about incarnation, of Jesus the baby. This is the time of year when the Christian story connects most vividly with 20th and 21st century life – in the birth of a baby to parents who didn’t expect that this would be their reality.  Peaching death,  tortured on a cross and rising to new life, preaching salvation….that’s hard, and outside the experience of most people. But preaching the unexpected birth, the outcome that wasn’t as any new couple would want, the experience of being rejected at the inn door….that’s where there are connections to be made. Preaching that fractured lives can be mended, that if expectations aren’t met they may be exceeded beyond our dreams in a different way…..hope. That’s where Christians can make a difference.

At Christmas we Christians have a ready made audience, who are well disposed towards us, who want and need to hear a message of hope, a message which affirms the love God has for them. At Christmas, we need not to let them or God down.

No pressure.

5 responses to “It’s Christmas time….

  1. Well said. I’m always excited, pensive, anticipatory, expectant at Advent, because I know what is coming. It’s not the excitement of a child, for presents, parties and the whole shebang, but rather a measured one of once again, celebrating that miracle called the Incarnation and it’s fulfillment that goes through to Lent, Easter and Pentecost and it’s final sign the Ascension.

    It’s about remembering those who are alone, in trouble, in prison, bereaved, homeless, workless, poor and vulnerable, doing what we can to help, and thanking God that there for his grace, could be you or I?

    I often wonder why we miss this mission opportunity in so many places – why we aren’t out processing, banging drums and cymbals and proclaiming with song and dance the coming of the Saviour? It’s not about being British, because I’m sure that given the opportunity, many of us would be glad to join in, it’s something about the nature of the Church and the pressure on Clergy and Laity alike, that we stick to our Churches and Schools, put on Carol services, serve warm wine and biscuits and pray that someone will turn up for all of them.

    Have we lost our imagination? Are we content to allow tradition to take away innovation? Are we afraid to try new (old) things – because they’re inconvenient and will interrupt our fixed schedule and diaries?

    I’m not sure. But know that from Christmases spent in Europe that there is a lot more public stuff going on, from processions to street tours by bands and choirs from Churches and Secular alike – something of a Carnival, just like the fabulous carnivals that precede Lent in Europe, South America and even North America.

    We seem, as churches, to have lost the ability and initiative to celebrate. School nativities, Crib services and Christingles go some way to address this, but they address those who are already committed in one way or another. My thought is that this is a unique opportunity for mission, which somehow we gloss over and is overtaken by the commercialisation and consumerism so evident at this time.

    I want the joy of Christmas to be that of the coming of our Saviour, which mammon can complement, but not supplant.

    I wonder if I can make that sort of difference in my new Parish, I do hope so.

    • Your reply highlights the the tensions between being a chaplain to a congregation, who expect certain stuff; holding the traditions for occasional worshipers who like to know things are happening just the same even when they aren’t there; and trying to preach the Good News of salvation through Jesus Christ in ways that make sense in the 21st century to people who don’t know much about it, and don’t see why it matters. We forget how irrelevant we are!

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