Last night was the Advent Carol Service. It has always been my favourite service of the year: I love to see the Minster in candlelight, the readings are some of the best bits of the bible, and the music heavenly (well most of the time!). This year it was the first Advent Carol Service for many of our new choristers, and the look on their faces as the procession moved from West to East, and from darkness to light, was something magical, with a strong sense of awe and wonder. It was the Minster at its best.
Many thousands of people will pour into the Minster this Christmas, as they too come to share in the awe and wonder of the Minster, and marvel at the birth of Jesus, as the story unfolds time and time again. It's hard sometimes if you’re a steward, server, organist, or clergy, to hold onto that spiritual side of Christmas as the sheer work load takes hold. I know that by Christmas day I’m both tried and grumpy!
This is why Advent is so important: away from the carolling and the tinsel, we time set aside to reflect on the real meaning of Christmas and enter that deep longing in the hearts of minds of humanity for a greater sense of what it means to be a child of God and to be human. If we are made in the image of God, and God became human in the birth of Jesus, then somehow we too are caught up in that cloud of unknowing, that mystery of life, both brutal and painful, and of wonder and of joy.
Christmas encapsulates both these emotional human feelings: for some people it’s a time for being with family, enjoying the energy and warmth of children being around us, and of the things we really value in life; for others, it can be the first of many years being on our own, feeling left out and lonely, facing the stark reality of how life is alone. My hope and prayer is that the Minster can be a place where everyone can come, however they might be feeling, and that as a community, we can be open and sensitive to how people who come through the great doors might be feeling.
There are a number of new people worshipping at the Minster, and it would be good in the New Year to bring them together with some others to build relationships and enhance our community life together. Over Christmas there may be others who come and are looking for something different in their lives, and a deeper sense of happiness and self-worth. We all need encouragement from time to time, and none more so than in exploring the Christian faith. So as Christmas beckons, be kind to one another, tender hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
Have a holy and peaceful Christmas.