I believe it is really important that we are seen to be celebrating Christmas in our community. Not because Jesus demands that we do it. Not because I think we are more godly if we do it. But because we are free to do it and the message we send if we don’t do it will be particularly terrible. What does it say to our community if, on the day they expect us to be celebrating the birth of Christ, our church is shut, the lights are off and nobody seems to be bothered? For that reason, even if nobody came, we will celebrate Christmas anyway.
If you have followed this blog for a while, you will know our church building is in the middle of an overwhelmingly South Asian Muslim area of Oldham. You will also know that we don’t find Christmas the slam dunk, open goal cultural evangelistic opportunity that a lot of others do. You may also know that, despite that fact, we will still do stuff for Christmas. The obvious question is, why?
The truth is, we don’t expect lots of people to turn up to our Christmas events. Those that do come are more likely to be indigenous Brits looking for their fix of carols, religion and tradition for the year. We sometimes pick up a few of those. The majority who come will really be those who have received an invite from someone in the congregation. They are really coming because they would rather get their bit of Christmas religious tradition with their friend who asked than somewhere else that might be that bit more traditional and Christmassy. The fact is, if you’re mainly bothered about traditional Christmas jazz, you’re probably not going to pick our 70s-built dissenting church for a carol sing-a-long over the parish church, with its lovely building, choir and whatnot. Even the traditions aren’t quite enough to pull people in to us of themselves.
More to the point, whilst we will certainly invite them, we don’t expect to see all that many of our Muslim friends and neighbours. It’s possible we might get one or two who are particularly interested in seeing what Christians do at Christmas, but for the most part, they will no more be flooding through our church doors than we tend to file into the mosque in great numbers at Ramadan. It’s just not a thing for them.
And the truth is, as a hardcore strict Baptist – whilst I love Christmas – it has almost zero religious significance for me.