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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

"Wise men still seek him": notes toward an address for a children's Christmas eve service

(This informal chat to the kids follows their nativity play: 'Amahl and the Night Visitors')

An example of cultural hybridization
You know what I first knew was different about Christmas in this country when I moved here? (Take responses: "It's hot" "No snow", etc.)

Yeah, and suddenly all the Christmas stories and songs and pictures I grew up with, you know, about snow and ice and snowmen and freezing weather seemed out of place. And Sleigh Rides like in Jingle Bells? Not even people in Alaska ride sleighs anymore? Who is this Fanny Brice and what does 'upsot' mean anyway?

It's not a sleigh-ride, but it's not hypothermia either.

So I began to notice and question why people celebrate the way they do. You know the one thing I love about Christmas in Australia? (Take responses--warm weather, swimming, BBQ's)

Think of them as little festive nuggets of joy.

Barbecue on Xmas day! No roast turkey for us, it's too hot! Instead is cooking outside and lots of fresh fruit and Pavlova, and salads, eh?

Fruitcake antipodian style.
But you guys do BBQs in a special way, like no where else in the world--you know what that is? Here in Aus. when you go to a BBQ, everybody brings meat along for the grill. This is UNHEARD OF in the US and the UK. If you're invited to someone's house for a BBQ over there, you're their GUEST, so you don't bring food. It's up to the host to feed YOU, not the other way around.

Think about what that means about being an Australian. It means everybody has to pitch in if there's going to be a good time. I think it means Australians are basically generous--did you know we give more to charity, for example, than the US, which is heaps bigger? True.

So you could say Australians have Christmas in their heart all year round, because we're a giving, sharing nation. Why DO we give gifts at Christmas anyway? (Take responses--wise men, birthday of Jesus, etc.)

Just like in the play you've just done, gifts are given in honour of a special child. But really there was nothing special about the BABY Jesus, no more special than any of you special Unitarian kiddos. What was special about Jesus is what he did with his grown-up life, which was also marked by giving to others, doing good to others, and especially to those who needed it most--the poor, the homeless, the sick.

See, there's that spirit of giving again...

You're all gonna be getting a lot of nice stuff tomorrow morning, yeah? And that's great, it makes the day seem like no other day in the year, when other people think of us, of our likes and wants, and needs, and treat us SUPER-special.

But unless we also treat others the same way, the real meaning of the day, Jesus' special life's work, is lost. So that's why I want you to help us out now.

I've asked everyone today to bring some special christmas treats, but they're not for us. Instead, we're going to collect them up and take them to the Hutt St. homeless shelter, where people will look on things like fruitcakes, and chocolates, and shortbread as the rare and wonderful things they are.

So, while the music plays, could the Three Kings, and Amahl, and all the other characters, go about the church and collect all these treats up, and pile them on this them cloth here?

(A large swaddling cloth is set on the floor, two bedsheets or tablecloths overlapped in the shape of a star.)

(Music: Rob and Susan on flute and guitar, play "We Three Kings")

(Once the the offertory is complete, the corners of the cloths are tied together, the  bundle is swaddled and is laid in a large basket, during which is read the nativity  Luke 2:7-12:

"And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them at the inn...."

All rise and sing "Silent Night".


The very best of the holiday season to you and yours,