By Rev Elizabeth Raine
Christmas this year will be profoundly different from the perspective of many congregations and community. The usual choir events and Carols by Candlelight have mostly been cancelled due to Covid-19 restrictions. Alongside this, here in the ACT, we are fortunate in that outdoor events can now have up to 300 participants. This helped inspire the thinking of the good people at Tuggeranong Uniting Church (TUC) to come up with something that would help give people some of that advent hope, peace, joy and love after a difficult year, as well as helping them engage with the enduring and beautiful story of Jesus’ birth.
TUC decided to hold an interactive event for congregation and community which we named Christmas Reimagined. We chose this name partly as it is known in the community from our participation in the recent Floriade Reimagined, and partly because the disruption of covid-19 restrictions meant that some reimagining was in order to produce something that was still Christmassy, but also different and more imaginative.
Our reimagined event is very different from our traditional Christmas services. It involves live wandering carollers and characters from the nativity story (Mary, Joseph, angels, shepherds, innkeeper, Herod, sheep!) sharing their stories with visitors. We are planning a live nativity with animals, story-telling, craft and a Blue Christmas room for those who want to remember loved ones.
Christmas Reimagined is designed to provide a sensory and interactive experience that immerses people in the Christmas story of the birth of Jesus and alerts them to its spiritual implications for their lives. By becoming participants, research shows that people are more likely to absorb the story and engage in conversation about what they are learning and seeing and hearing.
We know that unchurched people want to celebrate Christmas, and part of the mission of TUC is to assist them to do this. A story with love and hope at its heart makes a pretty irresistible force when it is shared creatively with a community. We also noted from our research that generosity shown by a church makes a good impression on unchurched people (see McCrindle’s blog about this at https://mccrindle.com.au/insights/blog/faith-belief-australia/).
We at TUC believe that the Gospel of Jesus calls us into action in the world, to promote justice, peace, equality and basic human rights for all.
We hope our Christmas Reimagined will build connections with the community, and will start a journey for people that ends with them becoming faithful followers of Christ.