Friday, September 26, 2008

Contemplating Christmas already

We had a City Centre Church Together meeting yesteday evening, giving me an opportunity to report to members on the Spiritual Capital project and conference, and how we hope to take forward the proposals made. There was also an opportunity to publicise the Countdown 2009 publicity exercise which the Faith Focus Group has engaged with under the 'Celebrating the Season of Goodwill' heading, during December. Recently the Focus Group was offered the possibility of making use of the big screen on the front of St David's Hall to show video clips of interest about faith groups. I was musing over this talking to Abigail from the Quakers, walking back through the centre from Tabernacl on my way home after the meeting. It's no easy matter to produce lots of watchable short films of quality.

Then I had a brainwave. Why not have the utterly simple format of filming many different groups of people in different settings singing 'We wish you a Merry Christmas' and shouting out 'Happy Christmas/Nadolig Llawen' to camera? By midnight, I had emailed all my colleagues with this suggestion. The only response I received was most welcome - the offer of a loan of professional video equipment and a team of media students interested in making something of the raw idea. I wonder where this might take us? Hopefully it'll be fun to do.

This afternoon I went to St Michael's College up in Llandaff to meet with other clergy and students for a briefing about this year's ministerial placements. Ben Rabjohns is coming to St John's - an organ playing music graduate, whose father was until recently our Area Dean. I hope we can give him a memorable and influential experience in the two terms he'll be with us. Not least an interesting Christmas!

In the Churches Together meeting several colleagues voiced their feeling that Christmas has been completely hi-jacked by secular and commercial concerns and is no longer 'ours'. My question about how we might 'baptize' this culture, bring out its Christian meaning and vocation seemed to fall on deaf ears. Maybe I'm only making sense to myself. Sure too I become numbed by the constant repetition of Christmas carols and endless carol sevices and commercially enforced jollity in the six weeks beforehand. Nevertheless it's a real challenge to clear an inner space in which to rehearse the Advent scriptural themes, and to 'wait in hope'.

Perhaps I've learned in recent years how not to exhaust myself reacting towards all this external stimulus, but to ride along with it and mainitain a different agenda in my heart. When I reach Christmas Day nowadays, what I most like to do is to savour quietly the mystery of the moment in all its complexity. Amidst the family partying, and round of services if there's enough space for a time of quiet emptiness, in which to savour 'God with us', it's all worthwhile. In the past I often found that the festive season became unbearable, not so much because of busyness, but because I failed to make sufficient space in which to contemplate, to gaze at this crazy encounter between the human and the divine. Amazing that learning how to look should take so long.

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