This year I haven’t been to church for any Christmas festivities.
For all my life I have been to at least 1 carol service a year in a church. For most of my adult life I have attended or led a Christmas Morning service. Christmas has been focused on churchgoing.
Of course, over the years I have joined in other Christmas-related concerts and carol sings. Yet for me, the Church’s Christmas observance has been an integral part of mine.
This year I led 3 Advent services in churches (2 in Celtic Advent weeks – late November -, and 1 in mainstream Advent). The nearest I got to a Christmas carol was “Joy to the World”. I didn’t hear the traditional nativity story and associated Bible readings, I didn’t see any dramatic nativity productions, I didn’t experience any Christmassy reflections or sermons from preachers.
Instead my Christmas observance began with outdoor carol singing with a community choir in a picturesque village, followed by a communal fish and chip supper on the way home. It continued with the concert of my usual community choir – admittedly held in a church and including many Christmas carols plus descants which I thought I’d left behind in my childhood Junior Choir years (Christmas is a challenge for sopranos!). A couple of evenings in local pubs followed – singing all sorts of carols, especially Local Carols – sung with passion and real enjoyment. There’s nothing quite like a pint of cider accompanying the basses’ favourite “Diadem” (aka “All Hail the power of Jesu’s name”) – an experience to relish.
Alongside this I continued my rhythm of prayer and focus on Advent themes: the longing for God to come alongside us and save us from destructive behaviour (whether to ourselves or to others) whilst knowing the already-in-place gift fulfilling that desire, the hope that we might realise God’s ways of living for ourselves and together in community, plus all the usual ones of light in the darkness, the coming of love and joy and peace…..
Finally the quiet and understated Christmas Eve communion in my conservatory chapel shared with my son. Music, words of reflection, wafer and wine, silence, and watching the dark inky sky with the neighbour’s tree silhouetted against it in the street light. The coming of the Christ Child greeted with a mother-son hug and shared appreciation of the moment.
And so Christmas finally arrived. Following on the heels of a mindful Advent journey, anticipated in merriment and community, birthed in love. For me one of the most meaningful seasons of Advent & Christmas……
If you would like to read more, find other posts like this in my blog