Mary and Joseph. A donkey, the angels, shepherds and the three kings. Bethlehem. A stable, a baby in the manger. King Herod. We all know the Christmas story, from school nativity plays and the television, and from the pictures on Christmas cards.
We tell the story again each year, and we become so familiar with it that it can feel like it loses its impact. As we reach December, we begin Advent. It is a special time of preparation, when we get ready to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. It’s a time to pause and reflect, and to open ourselves to an encounter with the living God who has come to be with us. Even if we know the Christmas story inside out, we are invited to hear it afresh. To wonder and marvel at what it means that God became a helpless newborn baby- as vulnerable as any one of us.
I now have a new appreciation of waiting for a baby to be born, as my own daughter who was born this autumn kept us waiting for several long weeks past her due date!
I know the pressures of this time of year can seem relentless, and for many it’s a time which can be painful. Yet we are all invited to to make our journey to the stable, and to meet the Son of God no matter how chaotic the rest of our lives are.
There will be lots of opportunities at St Marys’ to think together about the Christmas story, and to make room for Jesus this Christmas. It doesn’t matter if you haven’t been to church for a long time, or ever before. The church will be filled with people of every age, beautiful music, and candlelight. Everyone is invited to come and celebrate, wonder, sing, think and pray.
Children and families especially enjoy our annual Christingle Service which will be on Sunday 8th December at 4pm. The Children’s Crib Service at 4pm on Christmas Eve is another very special occasion. All the children are invited to dress up as sheep, shepherds, angels, stars or the even the donkey to help bring Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem. Lots of children are involved in telling the Christmas story, and every child is invited to be part of the nativity scene.
The service of Nine Lessons and Carols will be on Sunday 22nd December at 6pm, with our Festival Choir conducted by Ian Higginson. We will hear the Christmas story as told in the Bible and sing all our favourite carols. It’s followed by mulled wine and mince pies.
Midnight Mass is the most wonderful start to Christmas, and begins at 11.30pm on Christmas Eve. All are welcome to this joyful service, when we bless the crib and celebrate Jesus Christ coming amongst us.
I look forward to seeing you through the festive period, and I wish you all a wonderful Advent and a very Happy Christmas.
The Rev’d Rob Church
Assistant Curate of the Tetbury Benefice
For reflections to accompany your Christmas journey visit: www.churchofengland.org/followthestar