Christmas was the come-back kid last year in Booty Bridge. We definitely had more folk at our services than in previous years.
We were boosted by a parish-wide distribution of invitation cards to our Christmas services. The Outreach Team came up with the idea, the children had a competition for the picture on the front, and the church family by God’s grace managed to deliver them to every home (around 3000). Not bad for a voluntary organization of thirty-five adults, more than half of whom are over-sixty. God did something marvellous with our five loaves and two fishes.
It would also seem that church attendance at Christmas is being boosted by a cultural reaction. It looks as if the forces of political correctness have overplayed their hand and ‘happy winterval’, ‘happy holidays’ or ‘seasons greetings’ are just not landing with Booty Bridgers and I am sure that other front-line clergy are finding the same in their parishes. At the grass-roots, whatever our status, colour, or indeed creed, we prefer to wish each other a Merry Christmas.
However, we can be equally sure in the current cultural climate that people’s affection for Christmas does not spring so much from a clear understanding of its wonderful message as from nostalgia, and/or getting fed up with the politically-correct brigade.
Furthermore, is it not also the case that the Christmas come-back in the media, and amongst opinion formers generally, is the (ironic) result of prescribed cultural pluralism? ‘We don’t want to lose Christmas to Winterval because it is so much part of our heritage, and we want to keep it in the mix, but in these days of multi-culture we mustn’t take the message too far, because that might offend other religions.’
So it seems that if I am to get the most out of the Christmas comeback for the Gospel I have got both to run with it and subvert it. As with so many contemporary issues, Thomas Cranmer comes to our aid as front-line clergy, as we prepare for Christmas, because he was so _ Gospel-focused. What a wonderful Comfortable Word he included at Holy Communion, showing that the message of the Incarnation is always both relevant and counter-cultural: ‘This is a true saying and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners’ [1 Timothy 1.15].