Hark, hark, the wise eternal word,
like a weak infant cries!
In form of servant is the Lord,
and God in cradle lies. (Thomas Pestel)
Christmas is notoriously tricky because the Church calendar does not match the domestic pattern of most homes. For most families Christmas begins about now (beginning of December) and ends on the 25th December, while the Church is solemn during this time (see Advent) and springs into our joyful nativity just as everyone else is finishing.
It is tricky to hold to the particulars of the season without alienating the parish, but there are things that can be done.
Flowers – By keeping the church decorations to greenery only during Advent, it means we can hold back something for Christmas itself, welcoming our incarnate Lord with colour into the church.
Crib – An empty crib can be a powerful Advent symbol. Perhaps the figures might be placed somewhere else in the church, as they, like us, are on their pilgrimage to meet Christ; perhaps they might travel the community to arrive in Church ready for the crib service.
Carol services – This is where we usually surrender to the crowd. In many parishes there are so many to fit in – and nobody wants their carol service after Christmas – that they simply can’t all be up close to the feast itself.
Nonetheless, it’s possible to keep Advent going alongside – see the Advent page.
Blue Christmas – This can be a difficult time for some people, when the merriness of the season seems in stark contrast to their own lives. This is an example service for the growing tradition of ‘blue_christmas’ or ‘longest night’ services, which seek to meet this need.
After Christmas Day – Traditionally Christmas has been celebrated for twelve days, ending with the Epiphany. Contemporary use has begun to express an alternative tradition, in which Christmas lasts for a full forty days, matching Easter, and ending with the Feast of the Presentation (Candlemas) on 2 February. This gives us a chance to expand our Christmas repetoir.
Epiphany, for example, works well as a Christingle and material for an old year’s night service can be found in CW Times and Seasons. And the feast of the Baptism of Christ, can give an opportunity to renew Baptism vows, or celebrate the previous year’s Baptisms. (Again, Times and Seasons provides prayers giving a thanksgiving for Baptism.) Here is a Thanksgiving for Holy Baptism which could be inserted into the service, to be followed by a relighting of the Baptismal candles at the end of the service.
Candlemas provides an opportunity decisively to finish Christmas, and point ahead to Lent. This is a little rite for a Candlemas Procession to conclude the service on or near the 2nd February, but once more, there is plenty more in Times and Seasons.
As usual, I’m always on the look out for interesting material to share, so do let me know if you have anything I can upload, or link to. Don’t forget to check out the usual suspects on the links page, for the material they’ll have there.