I think it must be a more common phenomenon than we readily admit to, but everything this season gets focussed on the Midnight Mass and the services that precede it than Christmas Day itself: we get to the feast of the Nativity with such a sense of relief (and a half-a-regular congregation) that half of the necessary gets forgotton and we find ourselves scrabbling to get it complete.
To summarise Christmas Eve:
- Christingle Preparation was fantastic: a shedload of people turned up to make the Christingle Kits, complete with table grace for the following day. Many hands do indeed make light work and it went quickly: 150 bagged kits ready for the off. This time we didn’t cut into the Oranges so they were intact (and it was therefore much less messy) and we used birthday candles. Raisins and Asda Smartprice Dolly Mixtures were the sweeties of choice.
- Christingle itself filled the Church almost to capacity: about 170 people: children sat in the chancel, adults everywhere. Started the service with the Tom and Jerry cartoon Twas the Night Before Christmas which set the mood perfectly: “Christmas starts… now!” Most of it went to plan, the only disruptive children were ones known to me, and the feedback was positive. I wasn’t so on the ball as in previous years, but I’m always so self-critical. The Church looked fabulous with all kinds of candles and twinkly lights and the sight of 60 kids singing Away in a Manger in the dark was awe-inspiring. No Christingle-related conflagrations and all happy.
- Vigil Mass saw about a dozen people gather to hear Mother M celebration. It keeps reminding me how effectivge and useful a Vigil is. I shall keep it up. I was stuck with proclaiming the dullest Gospel of the Year: Matthew 1:1-17. Should have used the video which we created at Walsingham. Didn’t think about it. This is the video:
- Midnight Mass used two videos illustrated earlier. A couple of AV glitches but minor. About 70 people at Mass. Didn’t set chasuble on fire whilst putting bambino in crib, didn’t get the end of the Gospel right (it should have been the last verse of While Shepherds Watched… but the words didn’t come on screen) but virtually all came up to receive or for a blessing: a dramatic change to last year. The incense worked a treat, with one of our young thurifers, and the music went largely well. Mother M preached well also, and there was a sense of stillness… very atmospheric.
- Christmas Day, therefore was a heap of unplannedness: I messed up the entrance antiphon, forgot the Advent Wreath until the notices, forgot the Carol books (and the Advent Wreath books), and had decided not to use slides so hymns had waaaaaay to many verses – until I cut them out. Oh, and horror of horrors, we forgot to organise a collection so had to announce a retiring collection. However, there were about 35 adults and 10 kids there. A decent glass of sherry (fino for Mother M and myself) afterwards, well deserved and despite the ramshackleness of it all, it was friendly, intimate, lovely.
I think that it is because we put so much energy into Midnight, that the day is a bit of an anticlimax, and as we all have other things to think about: family, presents, dinner etc. we neglect our worship. The mass was none the less authentic and no less reverent, but it lacked the preparedness that I want to bring to the liturgy. My fault, I suppose for taking my eye off the ball after the late night (and with an 8-year old, the ineveitable early start).
Still, 10am Masses each day for St. Stephen (26th) St. John (27th) Holy Innocents (28th) and Thomas of Canterbury (29th). Someone has to keep them, and it provides an oasis of calm in the midst of a hectic week for many.