One of the decisions we made early on in the building process, was that we would not have any Christmas decorations up this year – so no tree, only a few cards up (the one permanent string that hangs cards for all celebrations), and few sprigs of holly over the pictures, simply because Dad collected it with me a week ago from some pre-cut by others for some new fencing in the ‘tussocky field’.
Time and money is limited, so we’ve drastically reduced who we are sending Christmas cards to this year (Church and MU friends have had a verbal explanation) and those relatives and friends to whom we do want to send our Christmas letter, will need to be patient – it will probably arrive in the New Year!
There is a steady flow of services to plan for. This morning I led a Family Worship at 9am for the Fourth Sunday in Advent, and I’ve just finished preparing for Wednesday’s 11am Morning Prayer. What I need to do now is focus on Christmas Day itself, when I hope to be leading and preaching at an All Age Christmas Morning Service in Minstead – the other end of the Diocese but where I grew up.
St. Peter’s has been decorated for the last week, partly for the several schools that use it for their Christmas nativity/concerts, and partly because last Sunday all our services had candles in them, from the 8am Communion by Candlelight in the chapel (that I led part of and preached at) through two Christingle services (at two venues) and various Advent/Carol Services at our other congregations. Though less ‘candle orientated’ today I was able to light the four candles on our Advent ‘ring’. I love the glow and smell of candle-light, even in an otherwise well lit room.
Among all this, and the snow and ice, I have been very struck about how wonderful it is to be in Church, following in these last two weeks of Advent the increasing anticipation of that Christmas birth. Having so sparce a Christmas at home, has made me look forward even more than normal to the times of worship at church, as well as allowing a little for the different stresses of decorating. And I’m hungry for the space to appreciate some new nuances to the Christmas stories even more, though I suspect that will not happen until after Christmas Day, when I’m promising myself serious time with Trevor Dennis’s ‘The Christmas Stories’ (though I might just dip into it to inspire Christmas morning).
I am thinking of focusing on what is missing from the ‘Christmas Story’ we think we know so well, when we read closely Luke 2:1-20… where, for example, is the donkey that features in so many pictures, and nativity plays? There are good reasons why Mary probably did ride on a donkey to Bethlehem (I heavily pregnant woman would be unlikely to walk the 80 mile journey from Nazareth) but what else have we added into our Christmas’s? The cards, the tree, the flashing lights … should they be part of the story too?
The cards and ‘circular letter’ – are they a chore, or a way of staying connected and in community with people we know and love, and wish to remember even if we’ve not seen them in… too long! The God of love that came at Christmas, came for all people, surely then he would want us to remember all people as we celebrate his coming?
The Christmas tree – probably more common now than a nativity set, is a living thing (at least until we cut it down) that comes into our homes, as Christ came as our living Lord into the world and wants to be present in our homes.
The lights on the tree, or on the house – a personal pet hate in the latter instance, but Jesus was after all the light of the world… it’s just a pity this form causes so much light pollution! Did you know there is now a Christmas Nativity done in lights? I could almost be tempted (but not quite) be tempted next year.
But with so much added in, that I struggle to find some Christian symbolism in, what has been crowded out?