This year Advent is an interesting experience. With only one service rather than two, and the need to juggle a carol service, Churches Together Christingle, a Christmas Eve Communion and a first ever ecumenical village Christmas Day service, to say nothing of a 'non-preaching Sunday' with a desire to have an Advent journey has been interesting.
My congregation has a long established tradition of supporting Christian Aid's Christmas appeal, so I have rehashed the 'Home for Christmas' material to fit into Advent 1 and 2 (hence yesterday we had Jose and Tabita, next week Evalina and Edouard). I had hoped that Christmas Day might draw on the same theme since the church 'up the hill' from our defunct edifice also has this practice. Alas the church 'down the hill' does not & will not, so it may not come to pass - this year anyway.
Advent 4 will be our carol service and a totally new experience as we use the BBC local radio Real Christmas broadcast in the local community centre. Lots of wonderful ideas are emerging and we are anticipating a hint of Narnia with twinkling lights, a free 'bran tub' for kiddies, a festive tea for pensioners, and lattes, luxury hot chocolate (both fairtade of course!) and Jamie Oliver style mulled cranberry juice for adults (don't want the temperance league down on us like a ton of festive bricks). The absence of nativity play, collection plate and notices will be a challlenge to some folk but many 'little people' are getting involved. It feels good.
Christmas Eve Communion will be a gathering in a family home and I am looking forward to creating something a little different for this. There is something quite fitting about gathering in a real home to share in this way, as we hopefully have to cram in to a living room rather than our normal 'home'.
The ecumenical services are a great source of hope for us clergy types - and many of the folk in the congregations too, just not all, not yet. The vicar grins incessantly at the thought of the shared Christmas Day service he's wanted for ten years, and the Methodist minister is delighted to be part of a functioning ecumenical scene.
So, with only one sermon left to write this year (plus the 'talk' for the christingle) I must be an unusual preacher. Instead I am freed to help others create acts of worship that will allow us all to experience a fresh sense of wonder at the story of new beginnings in borrowed rooms - something that resonates with our own story.
Enough waffle, back to preparing for my wonderfully rewarding Advent Lunchtime reflection & prayer meetings which necessitate the making of large vats of soup...