‘From the Vicar’
For many of us, Christmas is a time to celebrate. An extended holiday period, with more food and drink than we would consider sensible at any other time of year. There are gifts and decorations. Wonderful community events. Getting together with family and friends. Plenty of church services (I look forward to welcoming many of you!), and some of the most well-known songs to join in with – both traditional and ‘pop’. And jolly good things all these are. In his own words, the coming of Jesus into our world was so that through him we can enjoy “life in all its fullness” (John 10.10). The celebration of his birth is certainly a fine reason for a feast.
There are also plenty of other religious and cultural celebrations around this time of the year. There seems to be something universally human about a mid-winter feast, a celebration of light in the darkness – which is why Christmas is when it is. It’s a celebration of Jesus, the light of God, coming into the world; he almost certainly wasn’t actually born on December 25th!
Of course, for some of us this won’t be quite so joyful and indulgent a time. This might be the first Christmas without a family member or friend who was, and is, very dear to us. Maybe Christmas brings back some painful memories, rather than happy ones.
Or perhaps this time of year feels just too busy to enjoy. Maybe you spend so much time organising people and things that you never get chance to have fun yourself. Maybe you will be working, and the end of December will just be days like any others. Or maybe you just don’t like the noise and the busyness.
It’s important that we find some thing and some time to celebrate in our own way, even if it isn’t at Christmas, because God wants us to enjoy life. One of the ways the church has traditionally done that is with feast days. They mainly mark the key moments of the story of Jesus, and some of the most important saints. There are nearly 40 of them spread throughout the whole year. They are known as ‘red letter days’, because official church calendars highlight them in red print. A few of them, like Easter, move around the calendar, but mostly they happen on specific dates. All of them hold their own reason to celebrate.
This year, we will be aiming to have a service of Holy Communion in at least one of our churches on every ‘red letter day’ during the year. Our Sunday and Wednesday morning services will continue as well, but we know that it can be difficult to commit to the same time and day every week. Our ‘red letter’ services won’t always be at the same time of day, and naturally they will be on different days of the week. They will move around the three churches during the year, so everybody will find some nearby. Sometimes they will be sung services (like you might expect on a Sunday morning), but mostly they will be quiet said services – because celebrating doesn’t always need to be big and loud.
If you come to church occasionally, but Sundays are not a good time, we hope this will give you the opportunity to join in a little more often. If you are already a regular, come and discover even more about the richness of the Christian faith. If you’ve never been to church before, why not start with these services, because they tell some of the best stories.
Look out for them in the service lists here in the magazine, and on church noticeboards. Or contact me if you’d like to know more. The first ones are on the three days immediately after Christmas Day here in Hambledon – so if you’ve been too busy on the 25th, if you want 30 minutes of peaceful reflection amid all the noise, or if you’re just curious, please do come along and join in. Everybody is welcome. It will be really great to see you.
Whatever you are doing over the coming weeks, I hope and pray that you find the time to celebrate something that matters to you, in a way which is meaningful to you. May you know the fullness of life which the coming of Jesus offers us all.