Minister's Monthly Letter
When does your Christmas start?
Other people have Christmases but I’m not trying to second guess those – the Department stores whose buyers were scouring the world for original gifts in June, or the shops whose cards, wrapping paper and chocolates seek to proclaim Christmas at half past October.
This is more personal. When does your Christmas start?
Some of the old markers have gone. No more relying on an advert announcing “tick a tick a Timex tra-la-la”!
The chances are however that your Christmas countdown is marked by tradition and memory – more often than not linked with food.
Perhaps your thoughts start to reach forward on stir up Sunday – the last Sunday before Advent (this year November 23rd) - whose traditional collect or theme prayer starts “Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of your faithful people….” and helpfully reminds the bakers among us to get to work on Christmas puddings. Or perhaps it does no more than prompt you to create a shopping list for the Christmas cake.
Other food prompts come much later. What shall we eat on Christmas Eve? Assume nothing - there is an infinite variety of what families have always had – fish pie, pasta, curry and bacon sandwiches to name a few delights I know of. If there are family links to the cooking of other countries the possibilities can often reveal a new slant not just on food but on remembering what Christmas is all about. The traditional Polish feast on Christmas Eve cannot begin until the first star is spotted (a great job to give the children!) and bits of straw are placed beneath the tablecloth as a reminder that Christ was born in a manger.
My thoughts have already turned to Christmas services. That task starts by looking again at a picture of the three wise men that hangs in my study. It was drawn for projection at a carol service in a home for mentally and physically handicapped adults in the early 1990’s. Its simplicity dissolves the additions our society has stuck to Christmas and at the same time reveals the depth and intensity of love that is the truth of the season.
For some years a network of Church Groups has worked on “Christmas starts with Christ”. They produce posters and other material to help people start Christmas by focusing on its origin. There is a job to do. Just 12 per cent of adults know the nativity story, and more than one-third of children don’t know whose birthday it is. Meanwhile, 51 per cent of people now say the birth of Jesus is irrelevant to their Christmas.
Rev Bob Sneddon