A Christmas Carol Service? Now? The Second Sunday of Advent?
This Sunday December 6th, St. Albans is having its annual Christmas Carol Service. Now, some people might think December 6th is a bit early. After all, it's only the second Sunday of Advent, and Christmas is still 19 days away. And some people in the church think that we shouldn't be singing Christmas carols during Advent, that we should instead focus on our Advent observations and leave Christmas for, well, Christmas.
Now I'm all in favour of observing Advent as a season of waiting and preparation for Christmas. And I'm all in favour of celebrating the twelve days of Christmas which run from Christmas Day to Epiphany (Jan 6) with as much joy and gusto as possible. But, to borrow a phrase from a great blog post about Advent & Christmas on The Community by Megan Collings-Moore, "I choose all!"
On Sunday morning we will celebrate the second Sunday of Advent. And on Sunday evening, we'll have our Christmas Carol Service. Why? Three reasons:
The first reason resides in the identity of our community. Our community at St. Albans consists of all ages, but we have a large number of students and young adults. And, given our location two blocks from the University of Ottawa, we've made ministry to students one of our priorities. But young adults tend to travel at Christmas, to spend time with parents and grandparents. And not only will most of our students be leaving Ottawa during the holidays, but they'll spend the next three weeks hunkering down and writing exams. So this Sunday, the second Sunday of Advent and the last before exams, is our opportunity to celebrate Christmas as a community, and to give our students the gift of a moment of peace and joy before the stress of exams.
The second reason has to do with our calling as Christians. Sometimes it's called the great commission: we are to tell people the good news of Jesus. And an important piece of that good news has to do with his birth some 2000 years ago. Some call it Incarnation; others call it Christmas. But here's the thing about telling people the good news: it really helps if you can tell it to them when they're listening, at a time and a place when they're ready to hear it. Well guess what? In our culture, people are ready to hear the good news about Christmas right now. They want to hear our stories and sing our songs. And if we aren't ready to tell our stories and sing our songs with them, they'll have to settle for the versions that they hear on the radio and in the shopping mall.
And the third reason that we at St. Albans are having our Christmas Carol Service this Sunday has to do with the fact that we are a new community, a church plant as some would say. And as a new community it's in our DNA to make our priority not those who already belong to our community, but rather those who are not yet part of our community. After all, just over 4 years ago there was no one in our community and we were all in the 'not yet' category. And I've yet to hear a concern from those who are not yet part of our community about singing Christmas carols in Advent. In fact the only comments we received after our Christmas Carol Service last year were along the lines of "that was awesome. Please do it again next year."
And so we will. Please join us, 7 pm, Sunday December 6th. And thanks to our partners, The Open Table, Ottawa Christian Reform Campus Chaplaincy, Centre 454 and The Ottawa Mission.