I used to think that Christmas was theologically dull. On my first Christmas Sunday, as an assistant minister in First Antrim, I actually worked out how many more times I would have to repeat that same sermon until I retired!
Over time I have completely changed my mind. The nativity is not just a lovely scene for children to colour in. It is crammed with theological truth and Gospel insights.
Over the years I have spoken and blogged about these BUT this year I am aiming to bring all my thoughts together. In my Advent sermons, in my blog and on BBC Radon's Ulster in my Thought For The Day contributions I am going to unpack this amazing moment when God becomes human and moves in among us.
I am hoping, time permitting to blog every day, hopefully on the theme of the Sunday before's sermon.
Here is what will be going on in Fitzroy:
DECEMBER 1 @ 11.am - CHRISTMAS IS NOT JUST FOR CHILDREN
In our first Advent service of 2019 I will be making it very clear that whatever Steve Turner said in a poem about Christmas being for the children it most certainly isn't. In our Matthew reading, a baby is escaping from military death squads as a refugee. Nothing warm and fuzzy there. We will then set the scene for the rest of advent by suggesting that everything that Jesus would say and do can be found in these birth stories.
DECEMBER 5 @ 6pm (food from 5.15) - COMMUNITY CAROL SERVICE - MEET THE CAST
This is a short, snappy, interactive Carol Service for all of the family. It will feature Botanic Primary School, hot dogs and burgers, face painting, a balloon making artist and a bouncy disco!! During the service itself, we will be introducing you in humorous and interactive ways to the cast of the Christmas nativity.
DECEMBER 8 @ 11am - ONLY THIS BABY CAN BE DEEP AND WIDE
I will be stealing a phrase from a friend who in his artist entrepreneurism always advises that only Jesus can be deep and wide, as the old children's chorus taught. We will be looking at those who spoke about who this baby was going to be before he was born and in the birth narratives to discover the apocalyptic reach of this baby in the straw. Perhaps wider than deeper...
DECEMBER 15 @ 11am - MARY, REGARDED, CALLED & EMBOLDENED
Ten days out and advent gets personal. Protestants haven't been sure what to do with Mary. I suggest we get into her story, hear the theological voices from The Old Testament, hear what God tells her and how she responds. This is personal. It is costly. It is what we are made for.
DECEMBER 22 @ 11am - WHAT DO WE DO WITH THE GIFT OF CHRISTMAS?
Fitzroy's Sunday before Christmas will be a family service, for all ages. There will be lots of short sharp contributions and I will tie it up with some fun and the most important question that we all have every Christmas...
DECEMBER 22 @ 7pm - THE PASSION AT CHRISTMAS
Our Sunday evening Passion events at Fitzroy have become popular and a helpful resource for modern worship. Led by our very talented young people but not for young people, expect this one to have be a little different and a wonderfully joyous way to get ready for Christmas morning!
DECEMBER 25 @ 10am - CHRISTMAS ACCORDING TO... FROZEN
In our earlier (note time) Christmas Day service we will give thanks for the birth of Jesus and Paul Lutton will attempt to use the Frozen movies to share even more truth about the Advent season.