I am one of the many people who complain each year that Christmas comes too early in our shops and high streets, but this year I am having second thoughts! Today is the deadline for submission for the December edition of our local ecumenical newspaper entitled 'Caversham Bridge' of details of all our various Christian events and services to be held in the Christmas period.
So, as the Media Publicity Director, I have spent this last week contacting those responsible for organising such events and services in our two Methodist churches in Caversham. It was still October when I received the email requesting the information and it came as a shock to me, as well as some of those whom I contacted, making them spring into action to make vague dreams become realities. This makes me realise that we definitely do need early planning if our message is to come across as interesting, challenging and clear.
What I have now submitted for publication is an exciting variety of events that should appeal to a wide variety of people and age groups. One church (near to a relatively new housing estate) has planned two evenings of 'Rock Nativity' by the Masquerade Players, a morning Children's Christmas Service and evening Carol Service on the Sunday before Christmas, a 'Crafty Christmas' craft event for children aged 8 - 11 years on the Monday afternoon, a Pram Service followed by lunch on the Tuesday morning, with 'Carols round the Crib - a Teddy Bear's Picnic' followed by refreshments on the afternoon of Christmas Eve and the Family Christmas Service on Christmas morning.
The other church, with fewer children and young people, will host the annual Christmas Carol Service for the British Polio Fellowship, a Toy/Gift Service on December 14th when toys and gifts are donated for the local charity Christian Community Action which serves any who are in need in a large area (with shops and drop-in centres right across town), a Service of Holy communion in the morning and a Special Nativity Service for young children in the afternoon of December 21st, the annual Midnight Communion Service on Christmas Eve, with a Family Christmas Service on Christams Day and a Carol Service on December 28th.
As I have said, all these services and events need careful planning well ahead of time if they are to succeed. So why do we moan about our shops using similar strategy? This year in particular many families are having to beat the credit crunch by buying their gifts and food gradually, well ahead of other years, to avoid disappointing their families - children in particular. So I am wondering whether, instead of being irritated by the jingle bells ringing too early in our shops we ought perhaps to be using this time to talk about the coming of Jesus and why it is so important to us - and to those who have never heard of or considered His coming very much?
If nothing else, please can we spare time to pray for all those who are preparing services and events to spread the Good News of Jesus, and for all who will feel the effects of the credit sqeeze most keenly this Christmas.