I probably daren't admit this to my family, but this year the highlight of Christmas really was the "church stuff".
Not that I haven't been well and truly spoiled - some fab ear-rings which I kind of guided LCM into purchasing, together with a new watch that actually tells the time
(not that this is likely to have any impact on my own appalling timekeeping "skills"), and I had a whole heap of lovely shiney things together with nearly enough books to keep me happy for the holidays at least...And not that it hasn't been truly lovely to spend some time sitting around doing not much with all my wonderful children in one place....but this year,the worship really was extra special.
Midnight Mass was brimming over with mystery and marvel..a full church, great singing (and I did have the time of my life singing the Eucharistic prayer - those fantastic words in the Preface for Christmas Day...wow) and a huge sense of the presence of God among his people. In the morning, the 8.00 was calm and lovely and the "experimental" Family Eucharist was pure joy from start to finish. I'd adapted the liturgy in the desperate hope that the prospect of Communion wouldn't deter those fringe families who sometimes came to the 11.30 Family service in past years. Not sure in terms of numbers whether that really worked, but families were undoubtedly there and their presence completely changed the feel of the service...Instead of a slightly over-dignified procession to the crib, we had a journey with a purpose, as the children came with us and were interested and happy to see the babe lying in the manger...Instead of another attempt to think of something radically different to say about the joy of the Incarnation, I had fun exploring the difference between seeing and being good news, and anticipated any grinch-like comments about children running around the church by giving them a mission to do just that. It's very hard for anyone to remain obdurate when half a dozen under 7s are rushing around panting "Good News", I find!
Right through the service there was the happy buzz of children relaxed and glad to be there but I think my personal highlight was when the junior choristers produced tamborines during Joy to the World, and echoed each phrase of the chorus....The other children in church were possibly less rhythmic, but goodness were they excited and it became impossible not to smile from then on in.
As we were offering Communion from 3 standing stations, I got to look at people as I communicated them - and to see the joy in their eyes too and at the door the response was completely and overwhelmingly positive.
Another landmark on the way to a fully inclusive parish Eucharist safely passed, I think...thanks be to God!