Posted: 18 December 2015

Advent: Keeping wonder alive

Like many people, I find it difficult to pinpoint exactly when I first encountered Christingle. Our church has participated in it for all the 20 years I’ve been vicar, but I suspect that we’ve probably been doing it for around 40 years. In every parish I’ve been in before my current parish in Terriers, Christingle celebrations have been a major part of Advent. 

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Although it is a well-loved tradition, when you’ve been doing Christingle for a while, it can sometimes start to feel a bit stale – especially for those of us leading the service. What once induced a sense of childlike awe and wonder can instead fill us with a slightly disconcerting sense of déjà-vu and, dare I say, monotony.

In 2010, we decided to inject a new lease of life into our Christingle by incorporating elements of the Swedish celebration of St Lucia into our service.  According to tradition, St Lucia was a teenage Christian girl who was deeply concerned for the welfare of others. So much so that she would secretly bring food to the persecuted Christians in her home town, Syracuse in Sicily, who lived in hiding. She would wear candles on her head to keep her hands free to carry things and so she became known as the bringer of light.

We found this was a great way to involve the young people in our church more, as the service was led by our present church warden’s granddaughter who narrated the story of Lucy in first person, helping us all to think about our role as bringers of light in our society.

Since then, we’ve experimented with other formats for our service, with last year’s celebration being a semi-Messy Church version. Admittedly, this was born mainly out of necessity as major refurbishment works meant we had to worship in our church hall for most of Advent, but it certainly inspired more creativity. Children made their own Christingles as part of the service (unusual for us), games were played and I overheard one little boy tell his mum that it was ‘the best service ever!’

If you are looking for ways to refresh your Christingle, my advice would be:

  1. Think outside the box – do you need to do things the way you’ve always done them?
  2. Be open to new ideas, particularly from the children and young people
  3. Be bold – it can be scary trying something new, but go for it

While it is fun to look at different ways of running your Christingle celebrations, for me what’s most important is how we as leaders continue to kindle our own passion for reaching out and being a light in our society and how that inspires our congregations to do the same. What keeps me going after 30 years is knowing that Christingle is not just a pretty prelude to Christmas, but a real opportunity for us to do something meaningful to impact the lives of children and young people in our community.

As you prepare for your Christingle celebration this year, my prayer for you and the members of your church is that you would never lose your sense of wonder at the glorious light of this great gospel, and the opportunity that we have to make a real, tangible difference to the lives of so many children.

 

If you would like to find out more about how you can incorporate the St Lucia festival into your Christingle celebrations, send Tony an email tony.dickinson@oxford.anglican.org.

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