This letter is about Christmas and the wonder of Jesus’ birth. But first I am going to take the opportunity to outline some of the cost-cutting measures we will be putting in place this year to address our financial problems as a result of the pandemic. The PCCs of both parishes have approved a range of new, exciting, innovative and dirt-cheap Christmas services.
The first of these is the Carol Service. This is not the traditional Christmas hymns and readings format, because that would violate social-distancing rules and require major expense – heating, lighting, paying for an organist, paying for clergy etc. Our new Carol service is simply a service for all the ladies of our parishes who are named Carol. The last time I looked there were hardly any, so the service can take place in a broom-cupboard or a garden shed. It consists of a 5 minute prayer for all the ladies named Carol, led by one of the Carols.
Another of the new services for these strange times is Evensong. The new Evensong works because all the hymns are sung on one note by a socially distanced choir of two, four, or six choristers. This saves the expense of hiring an organist.
Our third new service is Christingle. No, not the one where we give lighted candles to hundreds of children in the hope of being able to claim millions of pounds on the buildings insurance policy. No, unfortunately Ecclesiastical Insurance have got wise to that one, and of course we couldn’t get that many children in church under lockdown rules. This new sparser Christingle service is so called because it is conducted by the Reverend Christopher Tingle. He is a 92 year old retired clergyman who has been advised by his personal life-coach to conduct regular services, for free, in order to keep his mind active. Chris’s eyesight isn’t what it once was and so he hasn’t yet spotted that his life-coach, the lovely Pru Scribe, is in fact me in a wig. So, the next time Chris Tingle deputises gratis at St.Thomas or at St.Giles, do make him feel welcome, and please don’t let on.
Fourthly, Communion. We interpret the word communion in the broadest sense, that is being together in spirit at the same time, but not necessarily in the same place. So, no hymns, no organist, no clergy, no heating because we will all stay in our own homes, hence saving money on wine and wafers. Finally, Midnight communion; as above, but in the dark and the cold. The money you save by not using your own heating and lighting can be donated to the church.
A friend said a curious thing the other day. He declined a piece of Gateau saying “I’m in training for Christmas”. Now clearly the man is confused. Think, how do you train for a marathon? By sitting on the sofa and putting your feet up? No. you go out and run, first a mile, then two, slowly increasing up to the day of the contest.
And so I have been genuinely training for Christmas; systematically, scientifically, methodically increasing the amount of food I consume. An early challenge was “Shall I eat a whole chicken? No, I’ll eat two whole chickens.” As we get nearer to the 25th I will be adding in extra meals. This week I have been incorporating a new meal in between elevenses and lunch. And to demonstrate my perseverance and commitment, I’d like you all to know that I started this training regime back in February.
Well, it has taken a great deal of time and energy to write this Christmas letter but you know what? I got so caught up in the fun and frivolity of the Christmas season that I have used up all my allotted space. I completely forgot about Jesus
Has that ever happened to you at this time of year?
Enjoy the festivities, but make a promise that you will take some time out each day this Advent to remember whose birthday we are celebrating. Read the Bible, allow God to be your life-coach, and when you remember about the Reverend Chris Tingle, or me training for Christmas, or Carol praying in the broom-cupboard, allow that to be a gentle reminder to you to pray for the whole church family.
I wish you all as merry a Christmas as you are able to muster,