Sometimes I wonder if people have any idea what is being celebrated at Christmas, especially now that the emphasis is on holiday, not ‘holy day’. I’ve even heard people wishing others ‘a happy holiday’.
A happy holiday?
Why are they having a holiday?
What happened to Christmas?
How can you take Christ out of Christmas?
During my recent leap into the National Archives of Australian Church Women (ACW), I came across a report about putting Christ into Christmas. In the midst of all the ‘extras’ of Christmas that were being presented at a community event, the Church had opportunity to feature the birth of Christ. The report was sent from the Queensland Unit of ACW to the editor of the ACW national newsletter, and it appeared in the January/February 1982 edition of Women at Work:
‘Festival of Christmas – 1981
‘The Queensland Unit was again involved in the Festival of Christmas by decorating a Christmas Tree. The theme we had chosen was "Joy in New Life" and the decorations were all home made.
‘The Festival, organised by the Inner City Uniting Churches, began in the City Square at 6.30 p.m. on Sunday, 13th December, with Carols by Lantern Light, led by the Salvation Army band and choristers. About 4,000 people attended.
‘Then followed a presentation of the $2,000 award winning drama, "He Who is promised" by Rosalind Kentwell of Melbourne. Events leading up to the birth of Jesus were depicted, ending as "Mary" on a donkey led by "Joseph" disappeared into the darkness.
‘On the Tuesday Mary on a donkey led by Joseph again appeared at the City Square where they were welcomed by the Lord Mayor after being denied hospitality at the Canberra and Crest Hotels.
‘For the next five days the "Baby" slept in the manger in the stable erected in the City Square, with relays of "Marys" and "Josephs" in attendance and Iambs and calves to keep donkey company.
‘On succeeding days the nativity events were enacted – Shepherds with sheep were greeted by Dr Llew Edwards, Deputy Premier, as they arrived at the stable. Then came the great attraction of the "Three Wise Men", suitably attired (ministers of the Inner City Churches) riding camels – one had a foal – the camels had been transported for the occasion from Goondiwindi, 200 miles away. After passing along the street they were welcomed at the City Square by Rev. Winston O'Reilly, President of the Assembly of the Uniting Church in Australia, Archbishop Grinrod of St. John's AngIican Cathedral and Father Frank Moynihan St. Stephen's Roman Catholic Cathedral, all of whom took part in the lunch hour service which Followed in Albert Street Church.
‘A group of ethnic children in costumes marched along the street and visited the stable to see the baby and Mary and Joseph. They were greeted by Peter Magee, President of the Sporting Wheelies.
‘A distinguished personality addressed the lunch hour service each day, to which celebrities were invited, including our Governor, Sir James Ramsay. A musical recital by soloists, choirs, or instrumentalists followed these services.
‘Each evening there were carols on the lawn of the Albert Street Uniting Church. The Church was beautifully decorated.
‘Goodies were obtainable from Mrs. Claus' Kitchen, while Mrs. Claus rocked in her chair and spoke to the children, handing them "Good News" literature.
‘Children's activities included handcrafts and making and coloring decorations while in Kid's Corner lusty singing, Santa Claus, a clown, a magician and a ventriloquist entertained the children each of whom received a balloon.
‘Some wet days did not dampen the enthusiasm of the people of Brisbane for the Festival of Christmas which had been planned over the previous twelve months, and which culminated with a combined service in Albert Street Church on Sunday 20th December, recorded by the A.B.C. at which Rev. Winston O'Reilly was guest preacher.
‘The Festival of Christmas had surely achieved its purpose of presenting a spectacle of love and beauty during the advent season, putting Christ into Christmas.’