It is with sadness, but relief that certainty affords, that I am able now to share with you our Cathedral’s plans for observing Christmas in 2020. Of course, we have known for many months now that there would be absolutely no possibility of accommodating the 2,500 people who normally join us for worship between the fourth Sunday of Advent and Christmas morning. Nevertheless, we had made considerable progress in designing an outdoor “sound and light” service, with projections of children’s art on the south tower of the cathedral, accompanied by the Christmas story, and music. Our hope had been to welcome people in groups of 50, over four “showings” and four evenings. We had even planned a concert in the cathedral, and opportunities for people to come into the space to listen to Christmas music, and – if they wished – to receive communion.
Clearly this cannot not happen in 2020. But stay tuned: we shan’t let our good work go to waste!
Nor is there any letting God’s good work go to waste.
A few decades ago there was a button making the rounds at Christmas that read, “Jesus is the Reason for the Season.” It was part of a somewhat clumsy salvo by Christians who felt that Christmas had been taken hostage by the Great Cathedral Mammon, and was suffering under the implacable expectations of a culture pining after the perfect family, the best parties, the milk of human kindness, and the lost innocence of childhood. Of course, none of these things is bad in and of itself, but neither are they the essence of the Christmas message.
As people of faith, we have the capacity to disentangle our celebrations of Christmas from what they celebrate. We can take away the turkey dinner, the tinsel and glitter, charades after dinner, and the VISA bill, and still there will be the song of the angels, and God willing to enter our pain – even the pain of pandemic – as an infant, vulnerable as we are. I wonder what more the Church could hope to say just now? God is here, among us, “Emmanuel.”
So how shall we celebrate Christmas this year? First of all, we have managed to “save” our annual service of Lessons and Carols. Thanks to CHEK-TV, and a whole lot of socially-distanced recording over the past month, this service will be broadcast on Sunday, December 20 at 4.00 p.m., on Christmas Eve at 10.00 p.m., and again on Christmas Day, at 11.00 a.m. We will also livestream a special Solemn Evensong on Christmas Eve at 4.00 p.m. On Christmas morning, at 10.30 a.m., join our livestream of a Christmas Service of the Word.
As usual, the Cathedral Offices will be closed from noon December 24 until Monday, January 4. Our diocese has also invited all clergy, staff and lay leaders to take a complete and much-needed break in that same time frame. Consequently, there will be no livestreamed service on Sunday, December 27.
However, we do plan to post O. Henry’s short story “Gift of the Magi,” for viewing and listening on that day. There are links and more information about all these services and events on the information circular which is enclosed. We hope you join us.
In the meantime, may God give you grace to seek the divine presence, as the shepherds did, in the least likely of places (COVID would count!); to find God in the cooing (and wailing) of something as tiny and fragile as the infant Jesus; and to recognize that only by your tenderness and care can this promise of salvation grow to its full stature and potential.
(The Very Reverend) M. Ansley Tucker
Rector and Dean