Advent Firesiders

Inclusion (2007)

All around the country this Christmas time, traditionalists will comment rather ruefully that attendance at the Midnight "Mass" and the Christmas morning Eucharist are going down while the attendance at the Christmas Eve Crib Service and carol services continue to rise. Gone are the days when the Midnight 'Mass', with its reluctantly welcomed gaggle of intoxicants under the severe eye of the Churchwardens, was the height of the Christmas feast. The real climax, numerically at least, is that service of a myriad shepherds and angels, joyfully reinforcing gender stereotypes and now reflecting parental competitiveness. It takes place sometimes between the end of the Carols at King's and serious Christmas Eve parties.

Here we are, with hundreds of people who otherwise never come to church, packed into the pews and even standing at the back, video cameras at the ready for the cameo of their particular angel or shepherd; and we let them have a bit of quasi reverent fun in our church and then they all go away.

Why can't we offer them something more substantial? Why can't the adults receive the Eucharist and the children a blessing? This is precisely what we do on Good Friday when the distribution of the Eucharist is quite separate from its consecration. It might be argued that this would make the Crib Service too long but this is to misunderstand the way children react to large public events. As long as their is action, milling about, music and candles, they will relish the opportunity to queue up with their parents to be blessed in front of the crib while those who have been confirmed, perhaps with a sense of embarrassment and something lost regained, receive the Eucharist for the first time in years.

Some people, suspecting that this is an argument for Communion by Extension, will say that this is the thin end of the wedge; but the incarnation was the thin end of the wedge and what was wrong with that?