Here is a Christingle talk I prepared. It isn’t going to be used this year, but filed away for now.
Let me tell you a story about when I was a child.
I grew up in London, and one year our family decided to have a summer holiday in Scotland. It would be a long distance away, and my Dad didn’t want to drive all the way there and back.
So he booked us on a special overnight train from London to Perth in Scotland. It carried the cars at the back, and we went to special bedrooms in the main part of the train. We were to sleep in bunk beds while the train sped through the night to Scotland. My Dad and my sister shared one bedroom, my Mum and I shared another.
There was one problem: as a child, I was afraid of the dark. At home, we used to leave the landing light on at night, so that I wouldn’t be worried at night. But you couldn’t do that on the overnight train. So I insisted that Mum and I kept the main light on in the room all night.
I don’t think we slept much.
Is anyone else here afraid of the dark? I wonder why we are scared of the dark. Sometimes we think there are monsters at the end of our bed. Other times we hear the house creak and we think it’s going to collapse. In other words, we connect the darkness with bad things, scary things, horrible things.
So if we think about the darkness as something bad, we think about the light as something good. And when we call Jesus ‘the light of the world’ or ‘the light that shines in the darkness’, we are saying there is something good about him. He shines light – goodness – into the darkness. The Bible says, ‘The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.’
And that’s what we’re celebrating at Christingle and at Christmas. We know there is a lot of darkness in the world. That is, we know there is a lot of bad in the world: people are selfish, greedy, angry, they hurt people and so on. But we believe that light has come. Jesus is the light and the darkness cannot win in the end.
How is Jesus the light in the darkness? He starts with us. He wants to forgive the darkness in us. He took that darkness upon himself. That’s why when he died on the Cross, the sky went dark. Then he wants to change us, to live more like him. He shows us the way to live a good life, full of light, and he offers us his power to live that way. He also promises that one day he will judge the world, and the evil darkness will be gone.
This Christmas, as you take your Christingles away with you, look at the candle. Remember Jesus, the light of the world, who can shine his light into your world when the dark things worry you. Remember Jesus the light of the world, whose light can change the darkness of our own bad things. Remember Jesus the light of the world, who promises one day to chase all the darkness away.
Tomorrow afternoon we have our annual Christingle service at Knaphill. Our theme is called ‘Socks, Sheep and Searching’. I get to pick up the ‘searching’ theme in my talk near the end. This is the PowerPoint I hope to use (provided I haven’t sent it to the AV team too late). The text of my talk may not show up below. If it doesn’t, click the ‘Slideshare’ button in the bottom left of the display and that will take you to the site where you can see the notes on a tab below the slides.
The sabbatical began today with a visit to Holy Trinity, Springfield, which will be our worship home for the next three months. I jotted down a few items from the service that could make the transition to worship in smaller, more elderly congregations than Holy Trinity’s. Not least among these was a version of the Creed rewritten as a hymn and sung to the tune of ‘I will sing the wondrous story‘. Tim, the vicar, kindly emailed me the words.
Mind you, I do recall hearing Professor Frances Young say in a lecture once that the creeds were originally acts of worship, so perhaps putting them in a hymn is entirely appropriate for those who sing their worship.
It’s not the first time it’s been done: in recent years, Graham Kendrick has, as have Stuart Townend and Keith Getty. So has Wayne Drain. And those are just the ones I that come to mind immediately. So there’s something to store away for when I return in May.
This afternoon, it was another church trip. This afternoon, our friends at St Andrew’s held one of their ‘Activ8’ Sunday afternoons for primary school age children. This time, however, parents were allowed to stay. They had a Christingle, timed to coincide not with Christmas but with Candlemas, the festival that celebrates the presentation of the infant Jesus in the Jerusalem Temple. But coincide was all it did: everything was Christingle.
Besides, while we were in the church, we could see the snow starting to arrive in thick quantities. And while that is more characteristic of February than December, it made the afternoon feel more Christmassy for some, not least two excited children with whom I am acquainted.
We played a game with paper pieces of a Christingle, rather like playing Beetle or Hangman with a Christian twist. There was a picture of a Christingle on an A4 piece of paper turned landscape-wise, with the text of a grace to say at mealtimes. Once you had coloured it in, you could have it laminated, and hey presto, one place mat. That was another idea, along with the sung creed this morning, to ‘borrow’. Finally, before sharing tea together, we made our own Christingles, albeit using glow sticks rather than lit candles.
So twice in one day I have found something to take back after the sabbatical, and I wasn’t even looking intentionally. Sometimes I say I don’t have an original idea in my body. My best ideas have been duplicated from someone else.
How about you? Are you original? Do you borrow? Or both? And if you have borrowed something good, do you feel like sharing it further in the comments below?
My eagle-eyed reader will have noticed there was no sermon posted on the site this weekend. (My wife says you should be rejoicing. If you wondered why I posted about the dressing gown yesterday, I just wanted to get some writing out of my system.)
That’s because I wasn’t preaching today. I led some prayers in a Christingle service this morning at St Augustine’s followed by leading a short said communion, and some more intercessions tonight in a circuit service to commission three worship leaders.
The Christingle service was fun. Jane, my Anglican colleague, made a boy in the congregation into a human Christingle. I just hope he got the orange make-up off before his football game this afternoon.
Tonight it was good to celebrate the gifts of three worship leaders. Berniece, sadly, couldn’t be with us, as she had been taken to hospital this week. But Joe and Dianne, both from churches I serve, are the sort of people any minister would want to have in their congregations.
Next week I may or may not post a new sermon. In the evening I’ll have a café church service where we discuss some clips from a DVD. In the morning I’m on a pulpit exchange to mark the beginning of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, and so I shall be doing my minister stuff at a local United Reformed Church while a Catholic lay pastoral assistant fills my pulpit. It might be one of those weeks where it would be helpful to lift the pressure by repeating an old sermon, not least with assemblies at two different schools (including my children’s school for the first time), all sorts of other meetings and the minor detour of a tooth extraction tomorrow morning.
Come three weeks’ time and there will be a protracted period of there being no new sermons on the blog. It will last three months. On 1st February I start a sabbatical. Not that I’m deserting the family for long periods of times, so no burglars who know our address should contemplate an unfriendly visit. But naturally I am looking forward to it. My recent laptop purchase was ready for that experience, and hopefully when the sabbatical starts I’ll be able to blog my experiences regularly.
So that brings you up to date with things.
… to quote an old Steve Turner poem. Well it will be tomorrow for me. I’m not posting a sermon on the blog tonight, because neither of my services tomorrow demands one. In fact, they demand I don’t deliver a typical sermon.
In the morning, I sit in on a nativity service at one of my churches. The Sunday School will perform some drama, my Anglican colleague will lead the service, and I get to give a short talk.
I’ve drawn on an idea from a new book that I’d like to recommend as a useful resource at this time of year for preachers, ministers, worship leaders and musicians. It’s co-written by Lucy Moore of Messy Church fame, along with Martyn Payne. It’s called Bethlehem Carols Unpacked: Creative ideas for Christmas carol services. The book tells the background stories to eleven famous carols and then gives ideas for how to use them in worship, be it ‘adult’ or ‘all age’.
So I looked up the carols that my colleague Jane had chosen and adapted an idea for use with children in connection with The First Nowell. It’s a simple idea around the theme of birthday parties. What kind of people do you invite to your birthday party? God invited the most unlikely of people to celebrate the birth of his Son. The shepherds were ‘unclean’ and the magi were Gentiles. Those you would think more likely either just gave academic answers and did nothing (Herod’s scholarly advisers) or actively opposed Jesus (Herod). We have an ongoing party with Jesus: it’s called the kingdom of God. And it’s our privilege to invite all sorts of unlikely people to join that party. Were I expanding this I might draw in the Parable of the Great Banquet to give something for the adults to chew on, but I probably won’t have time.
Then in the afternoon I have a Christingle service. Although the (Church of England) Children’s Society is largely responsible for introducing this service to the UK in recent years, it is very appropriate for Methodists to celebrate, because its origins are Moravian from 1747. The Moravians, of course, were highly significant in influencing John Wesley towards his ‘warmed heart’ experience of 1738.
For those who don’t know the tradition, there is plenty to fill you in on the web, but briefly everyone is given a decorated orange. Each part is symbolic. The orange stands for the world, so we shall begin by thanking God for creation. The fruits (e.g., dried raisins) and sweets attached on a cocktail stick represent God’s good gifts. We shall lead that in the direction of Jesus being God’s best gift. The ribbon is for the blood of Christ, so I get the difficult part of the service where I have to lead a brief, simple prayer thanking God for the death of Jesus. Finally, the candle is for Jesus the light of the world, and as we light one another’s candles while standing together in a circle we enact our rôle as lights in the world, sharing the light of Christ.
Afterwards, we’ve invited everyone to stay for a free family tea of sandwiches and cakes. We’re hoping that our publicity to two local primary schools and the pre-school that uses our school hall will make for contact with plenty of non-church people.
Say a prayer for us, will you? This church hasn’t had a Christingle in years. It’s a new event to many, however old hat it is elsewhere. It is requiring hard work from many people.
One of my churches in the last appointment had to run two identical Christingle services every Christmas Eve, because it was so popular. They had a publicity advantage in being smack next door to a big supermarket, and also with the timing of Christmas Eve afternoon, when families might specifically look for a child-friendly Christmas celebration. We don’t have either of those factors in our favour, and couldn’t have gone for Christmas Eve due to a highly successful crib service every year at the parish church. But we do want to bless the community with God’s love and build our relationships with them. It was striking at our last Messy Church event a couple of weeks ago how the fact that we insisted on not charging made an impact on some parents. We want to bless them with a Gospel message and Gospel action tomorrow.
So if you could squeeze in a prayer, we’d be ever so grateful. Please leave a brief message in the comments section below to let us know you have said a quick prayer: it will encourage us. And obviously, feel free to offer any other comments in the usual way.