I was talking the other day to one of our church members who works at a Christian School on the Gold Coast. This school had advertised all the church times for all the churches around, which was a very generous thing to do, given the school itself was connected to a particular church. On seeing the list one of his colleagues commented, “Wow your church has a lot of services over Christmas!” I went on to tell him that I’d just seen a promotional brochure for one of the biggest churches on the Gold Coast that was having its only Christmas Service on the 23rd of December! Can you imagine a church closed on Christmas Day! I often joke to my friends in churches of other denominations that Anglicans do Christmas and Easter ‘hardcore’.
The truth is I really don’t mind churches that do different things in different ways and at different times. My hope is that there is more of a chance to connect with a wider group of people. And truth be told, regardless of when you celebrate Christmas, you should live Christmas every day of the year.
As tired as I will be in the afternoon of Christmas Day, I love the journey through Advent and each of the many services leading up to and including Christmas Day. There is power in the journey!
In my first church in Newcastle, there was a young couple with 2 daughters who went to every one of our 4 services between Christmas Eve afternoon and Christmas Day (including Midnight with 2 children under 5!) I remember the absolute joy I felt when I saw them walk into Midnight Mass with the 2 girls, who had beaming smiles and were dressed in bright whiteas angels, complete with wings and halos. I also remember my absolute shock when I saw them turn up again at 9am the next morning (which is 8am for you Queenslanders) still with the same beaming smiles.
Anyone who has been on a long road trip, particularly with small children, will know that journeys can be challenging and tiring. But when you reach your destination there can be that immense sense of relief and accomplishment. As a church we continue to model journey in our rhythm and patterns of worship, and we do this to remind us that in our relationship with Jesus we should be always moving forward. For many of us the destination may seem still far off, for others it may feel quite close, but regardless of where you are with Jesus, I pray that this Christmas you will feel invigorated by the journey. I pray that like that young family, your beaming smile will carry you through the year, because Christmas does matter. Jesus coming into the world has turned our world upside down and sometimes that takes a while to work out – in fact it takes more than our whole lives to work out. Thank God for eternity!
And that’s what we really celebrate at Christmas… eternity. We have a relationship with God because he was made flesh and dwelt among us, in order that we might have eternal life. I pray you are not too tired this Christmas for your journey to remain meaningful. I pray your response to Christmas, beaming smile or not, will be a profound witness to those around you.
On behalf of my family and on behalf of our church family, I wish you a happy, holy and profound Christmas.