Christmas is almost upon us and I think Elenwe (Turgons wife) has finished her single handed destruction of my bank balance and credit card limit. As fundamentalist Prods we are, however, supposed to regard Christmas as a primarily religious festival. Clearly some of our fellow fundies denounce the whole think (Ivan Foster is a leading critic) and whilst I can see where he is coming from, especially in view of the obscene expense involved, (the more so in a recession) we still enjoy Christmas. Apart from the cost (I am very mean) there is another part of it which always annoys my dour fundie tendencies.When I was a child Christmas carol services were always excellent. They were a bit formulaic. However, they involved a series of carols and lessons (preferably read from the King James Version obviously). In many ways they followed the pattern of the service from Kings College Cambridge which will begin shortly albeit with less technical musical ability. Most of us greatly enjoyed singing the carols and hearing the lessons (my favourite is always Once in Royal Davids City and John 1).
More recently, however, some of the services have become different with hymns from Easter and such like. I understand the argument: that since some nominal attenders will be there the prospect of evangelising is always attractive to evangelicals. The critics will suggest that the standard carol service simply gives people a warm glow and does not preach the gospel. However, I would submit that people are attracted by the tradition and that that is a better way to get people into the church.
On Sunday in the midst of the snow we set off for a tiny church in the middle of nowhere in North West Fermanagh which is only opened twice a year (a few of you will know where I mean) and there we had all the Christmas carols and lessons: the lessons read under the light of a Tilley lamp (there being no electricity). It was maybe a bit twee but surely at Christmas we are allowed to be a bit twee. The Virgin Mary even got an honourable mention (not a sermon, as I said before I await that). Then we all went back home. It was of course very traditional, maybe even ritualistic (that most dreaded of words in fundamentalist Prod circles). However, maybe at this time of year even we are allowed a bit of ritual.