“Why did it take a pandemic to force us outside in such a brilliant way?”
We don’t take it for granted that – even in our late-modern, post-Christendom, secular age – Christmas usually still brings with it a host of opportunities to reach out to not-yet-believers in Glasgow. Events are familiar. Inviting becomes easier. There can be valuable conversations over mulled wine after carols, or when the lights go up after christingles, or while making advent wreaths at a craft night.
But what do we do when there’s a pandemic? When the headlines are that the Prime Minister and the First Minister have “cancelled Christmas”?
Surprisingly for us at St Silas, the answer was, we do a “Nativity Trail” in the park.
I’ll be honest. It wasn’t our idea. We owe the credit for creative edge to our friends at Faith in Kids.
But we were bowled over by how well this event worked. We were left asking how it took a global pandemic to get us outside the church building and into Kelvingrove Park (a stone’s throw from our doorstep) for our Christmas events.
Aimed at Primary School aged children, the Nativity Trail began with families meeting a Centurion on the street, puzzled over an ancient prophecy he’d stumbled across about Immanuel.
He set them on a treasure hunt through the park, where they met a pregnant Mary, then on to some magi from the east, shepherds who seemed to have lost their sheep, and Joseph by the manger, before finally meeting a different centurion to explain to him what lies behind the prophecy. The message couldn’t have been more timely – in a year when plenty of loved ones couldn’t be with us, we have a God who did come to be with us, and who can be the heart of our celebrations this Christmas.
Providentially, the Saturday we settled on for our Trail in Glasgow was the first day for some weeks when restrictions were eased. People came in larger numbers as a result. We were bowled over, in fact, with the numbers who came along and their positive reaction to the event. Children were excited to be on a ‘treasure hunt’ with friends, and they left with gift bags that included age-specific gospel-centred Christmas books.
Another blessing was that the event was actually quite a lot of work, such that it brought together people from the church family serving together – including a handful folks who have joined the church in lockdown, for whom it was a great opportunity to get to know others.
Even the sun came out, in Glasgow, for that one afternoon on a weekend where there was a deluge of rain. We thank God for the many contacts made, and we pray on for gospel fruit. We of course so hope that by next Christmas the restrictions will be over, and yet we’re probably all agreed, “We should do this again!”
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