An abundant Christmas
...Because we don't often celebrate the sacrament, our understanding of the theology that underpins it has diminished. What a pity! ...
The time when your parish priest may have made a 'friendly' Christmas jab at 'how full the Church looks' is well behind us. While well-meaning (and perhaps served with a 'side-helping' of guilt), we know comments like these only alienate those who rarely come to mass. We probably share some of our presider's frustration: we want people to be part of our church community, to discover the richness of Christ discovered among us. We want our visitors to come to Mass every Sunday, with us, because we are better for their participation.
I have read countless articles lamenting the commercalisation of Christmas. I wonder if it is time to get past this and see the world as it is: graced. If we view this coming season with abundance, what do we discover? Our churches are fuller! The story of Jesus' birth is announced everywhere we look! These are opportunities for evangelisation, not something to complain about. God is discovered not only in our churches. God is discovered in the mystery and fullness of creation. We don't have a Divine monopoly. God is bigger than us.
Sure, Christmas is over-commercialised. But with all the buying, there is a tremendous amount of giving. Caritas Australia and St Vincent de Paul both report that there is a peak in donations during December. Abundance!
St Francis is thought to have said, 'Go out and preach the gospel and if necessary, use words'. When people come back to our church after an absence, how do we choose to be 'missionary disciples'? I wonder if it is about our intentionality. When our ministry teams meet, do we consider the needs of new community members, from their perspective? For example, do we encourage existing community members to learn someone's name? Do we have welcome packs ready (ones that do not seem to be focused on planned giving)? Do we ensure that all the words to the liturgy are available? Are Mass times available for the coming weekend? Are invitations to become involved in parish life available? People returning at Christmas offers an opportunity to demonstrate how parish life is at the heart of sacramentality.
It is critical that we are not geo-centric. Even though our temporary parishioners may be visiting on holiday, our discipleship is not restricted to our parish. These invitations are always extended on behalf of Christ to the Church. So, consider advertising the Archdiocesan webpage that lists parishes and mass times for the whole Archdiocese. Better yet, offer to introduce someone. Imagine if you said to a visitor, ' I know you are visiting us here. Let me call <local> parish, I am sure someone there would love to welcome you and introduce you to other members of their community!' A genuine, personal invitation to be a part of a community can be the most transformational and effective form of evangelisation.
Christmas is often referred to as the 'Season of Joy'. It is easy to complain about Christmas, but when viewed with abundance, there is so much for which to be thankful!
By James Robinson, Education Officer, Liturgy Brisbane