I was walking along Park Road in Chandler’s Ford earlier in November and overheard a conversation between a mother and her son she’d just picked up from school. The mother told the son that they would put up their Christmas tree that evening. It was another example for me – along with the constant Christmas TV adverts, the endless playing of Christmas music and the Christmas goods in the shops and the Christmas decorations that are pretty much everywhere – that the Christmas festivities seem to start earlier and earlier each year!
Not that I’m a spoilsport. I enjoy Christmas as much as anyone else. And there’s not many of us who don’t look forward to it. Whether it’s the food and the drink, the receiving (and giving) of presents; the time with family or just a break from work. It’s a time to relax and to enjoy ourselves. Advent
But it does seem to me that we’ve lost that sense of waiting and anticipation and that by the time we get to Christmas Day it can often seem like an anti-climax. In the Church’s year the period leading up to Christmas is called Advent. It is a period of preparation and of prayerful anticipation. The most important preparation is prayer but it is also about what needs to be done so that the great feast of Christmas can be celebrated in the most joyful and appropriate way. This will include all those practical activities which allow us to have a good time on the day itself because the Church regards Christmas as one of the two most important feasts of each year.
Advent starts this year on Sunday 3rd December and lasts 4 weeks ending on Christmas Eve. The Christmas season starts when Advent ends and traditionally lasts for the twelve days of Christmas ending with the Feast of the Epiphany when the three wise men from the East came to pay homage to Jesus and to give him gifts. How would we feel about not putting up the Christmas tree and decorations until Christmas Eve? Or not receiving our presents until 6th January? Because that’s how the traditional Christmas was celebrated. And still in some countries today, the exchange of Christmas presents does not take place until Epiphany.
Our Christian roots
Perhaps we should think more about returning to our Christian roots. Of thinking about what made Christmas so special for our Christian ancestors. Because practically all that is traditional about Christmas today comes from our Christian heritage.
We celebrate Christmas because on that first Christmas day God became man in Jesus Christ. He who came to offer us meaning to our lives; who was prepared to die for love of us and to offer us the opportunity to follow him into eternal life. That’s what we celebrate at Christmas. For Christians the focus of our celebrations is to praise and thank God for what he has done for us. All else follows from that priority.
Why Christmas is so special
So yes, we should have a good time. We should enjoy the festivities because it is important to celebrate. But this year, try also to give some thought to the reason why Christmas is so special. And in doing so, why not join the many thousands of other people who will be celebrating their Christmas in one of the local Christian churches.
Details of all the Christmas services in our local churches are listed on the website of Chandler’s Ford Churches Together. Feel free to come along and get a sense of the real meaning of why Christmas is so special. You will be very welcome.
Deacon Paul Owen
Catholic Church of St Edward the Confessor
Address: 191 Winchester Road, Chandler’s Ford SO53 2DU
(Note: The Catholic Parish of St Swithun Wells comprises six Churches in Hampshire serving the local Roman Catholic communities: St Joseph’s in Romsey; St Andrew’s in North Baddesley, Holy Cross in Eastleigh, Our Lady Queen of Apostles, Bishop’s Waltham, St Swithun Wells, Fair Oak, and St Edward the Confessor, Chandler’s Ford.)