Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas comes - often it seems (2)

Midnight Mass was unusual. Instead of seeing five out of six familiar faces, it was five out of six unfamiliar faces - visitors from near and far away, including members of a holiday package tour, staying at the Marriott. Numbers again were identical to the morning and apart from the handful of choristers and stewards, different visitors were there, not just older people, also young Asians from India, Malaysia, the Philippines, Japan - students, professional interns or travellers tasting Cardiff life.

I was glad not to have to get up for an early service, and despite a short night's sleep, I was relaxed and fresh enough to preach off the cuff, rather than repeat my Midnight Mass sermon. Again, numbers in church were about the same as at Midnight Mass, communicant numbers were the same, but those attending were again different, apart from the small core group. I guesstimate this means about 150 people attended four services in the Parish during the last 24 hours, and 120 of these received communion. Of all these two dozen were known regulars, and the rest were passing through Cardiff from other places.

It struck me as I prepared to celebrate that those Nativity stories are all stories about travellers and travelling, even the Saviour's birth. When we move around we experience familiar things from a new perspective. What's remarkable about this generation is that so many people are on the move because of leisure tourism rather than necessity. The challenge is how to speak to their hearts about things eternal in a way that makes a lasting difference. The trouble with so much consumer travel is that it's a superficial sensation based experience from start to finish.

I was so pleased that among the visitors this morning were Rupert and Kitty a couple whose wedding ceremony I'd performed four years ago. They've come at Christmas before when visiting family in Cardiff, but this time they brought their new first born son Sebastien with them, replete with a Rudoph the Red Nosed Reindeer bonnet with antlers. Such a delight to share their joy.

I was relieved to reach the end of such an intense time time of offering worship with so many people unfamiliar with our liturgy, yet wanting to be there and listen even if they didn't know enough music to sing along. To drive home from church and just relax quietly before lunch was a blessing in itself. For once, in decades, I didn't fall asleep, either before lunch or afterwards. Now, for a few days at least, there's no more fuss, no more visitors, no more arrangements to be made. For me, this is a feast in its own right. A modest space in which to contemplate 'God with us', and try to put the year in order before it rushes to a close.

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