Congregation member: “I didn’t get anything out of worship today, Pastor.”
Minister: “That’s ok. We weren’t worshiping you.”
A meme from Facebook
Unbelievably we are heading into October! In so many ways this feels like it has been a long year already, and yet I find I am surprised that it is so late in the year. In some of our Congregations, thoughts are turning toward Christmas and how we will celebrate again the coming of the Christ Child. Already we know that it is going to be different this year.
I have been noticing an increase in comments from various sources, including advertising and overheard conversations, that “Christmas won’t be the same this year.” My initial response when I first heard this was to curl up inside and enter into Denial — of course it will be alright, we will be able to do the things we are used to doing at Christmas, because surely all of “this” will be over by December! But somehow, I wasn’t allowed to live with that reaction. I heard the lament a few more times before I noticing a rallying cry from within my heart: “Why should it be the same? And what is so bad or wrong about Christmas being different this year?”
Like so many things in 2020, we find ourselves in a situation where we need to question what has become “normal” and discern (again) what is really important. Over decades, even centuries, we have developed traditions and habits that speak to us of the season of Christmas. These things, we declare, help us celebrate. They pull us out of the ‘ordinary’ time into a special time of remembering that Jesus was born as the Saviour of us all. Singing carols, watching, and perhaps participating in Nativity scenes, Christmas parties and gatherings, giving and receiving gifts — all of these and probably more have made it into our annual “This Is Christmas” routine, which can be loosely interpreted as “I’m getting something out of what we are doing.” Many of these traditional events are not going to be possible in the same way this year because of the restrictions with which we live that seek to reduce the transmission of COVID-19. And many of us will be grieving that there is significant risk associated with communal gatherings and perhaps especially the singing of Christmas carols.
I was reminded recently in an article that I read (and I heartily apologise that I do not remember the title or author of the article) that Christ wasn’t born so that we could hold parties, sing carols, and generally celebrate the Christmas Season. Christ was born so that all of humanity, all of creation might be reconciled with God. “Tradition” has developed that we share this good news through the season of Advent and Christmas with community carol-singing events, parties, pageants, and Christmas Nativity scenes, and quite honestly, I wonder how effective these are in making disciples for Jesus?
This year we must think about doing something different. Our various settings and communities will offer different opportunities to us, and perhaps even open up the chance of collaborating in new ways with our neighbouring churches. We have a chance to pare back to the central message of the Christmas story: God comes to dwell amongst us so that we might be drawn to God’s self in loving relationship. This relationship God yearns to have with us will also draw us into loving relationship with each other.
As you perhaps begin to think about Christmas this year, what does that relationship with God and each other look like for you? How will you and your Congregation (or other ministry and mission setting) share the good news with your community that God is born amongst us again this Christmas to bring us into Love? How will we turn the focus away from “What will I get out of Christmas” to “This season, as with all seasons, is about worshiping, celebrating and sharing God who is amongst us all”?
Oh — and please don’t be ‘freaked out’ that this is about Christmas… there are still (almost) three months to go!
Blessings and peace,