Most sensible people take a week or two out from blogging to eat, drink and be merry. The rest of us blog on regardless reflecting and rambling about our experiences of this bizarre yet signficiant festival, trying to find glimpses of God hidden in the glitz and glamour. (In case you'd ever wondered I like aliteration, even if I'm not sure how to spell it!).
Christingle Lights - I had the task of giving the talk and used parts of John 1 and Matthew 5 to pick up the twin themes of both Jesus and people as light for the world. Using a range of light sources - a birthday cake candle, a desk lamp, a normal torch, a search-light type torch and a string of coloured fairy lights, we thought how lights come in different shapes and sizes, each with a special role and all important. I ended with the fairy lights, all attached to a single cord and sourced from a single power supply (these were the cheap, non-flashing type so all connected in series) and decided to have a quick Christian unity plug (pardon the pun) pointing out that the colours may differ but they are united by the common power supply. It seemed to work - and switching on the lights drew a gasp of wonder from the congregation. My former Church of South India Mehtodist colleague hasn't stopped grinning since!
Christmas Eve Communion - Baptist style. We met in the home of one of our members. She and her husband store much of our funiture in their shed and to my dismay had brought in the communion table and the preacher's chair. However, the initial sadness at the straight rows of dining chairs, all very ecclesiatical, melted away as people arrived and we had to bring in garden chairs and the rows degenerated into a crush, with one person even sat on the stairs. Recorded music by Rutter and from Taize, a liturgy adapted from one written by a college colleague and a Nick Fawcett meditation preceded the sharing of warm, home-baked bread and proper sized glasses of grape juice. Over mince pies and coffee hung a strange warmth as we chatted freely and found Christ in the clutter.
High Anglicanism at midnight. My one self-indulgence after our services have ended is to go somewhere else for midnight communion. This year I trotted off to the very high Anglicans (rather than the just high Anglicans!) where I joined around twenty people for a traditional midnight mass. It was all very un-pass-remarkable until the moment when I found myself kneeling in front of the large scale nativity scene set out literally under the altar. Crunching up a wafer (bad heretic that I am) whilst looking into the eyes of an infant Christ was a very moving experience, inextricably connecting the two events of Christmas and Easter in a way that doesn't happen when we just stand our neat little nativity scene on the Communion Table the weeks we don't need it for its designated purpose.
Village Celebration Service. This had turned into a nightmare in the planning. The host church was split over whether it was a 'village service' or their service to which we were coming. One minister and the preacher had found strange common ground in objecting to the drama the rest of us had agreed upon. The leader only finally decided who was doing what at 9 pm Christmas Eve and reallocated us all to new roles... It could have been a disaster with break down of relations a real possibility. The moment arrived, the church was pretty well full with people from all the local churches plus a few from another church not holding a service (shame on you XYZ Baptist Church) and some 'Christmas Oncers.' And it worked! It was a good atmosphere, the singing was good, the simple prayers said all that was needed and the "birth pains" indeed forgotten as we celebrated the crazyness of God all those years ago.
Yes, Christmas was pretty much crackers, but instead of paper crowns, useless toys and awful jokes, were a few new insights, some precious moments and hope for the future. Somewhere in the heavens I'm sure there were a few smiles as the squabbles were laid aside if only for a few moments this Christmas-tide.