Is this the best that we can offer?

Are you ready for Christmas? Perhaps, like me, you’re not *quite* there yet, or more realistically for me at least, you can see the big event hurtling towards you at a rate of knots and know you need to take action quickly!

My annual efforts to try to ‘do better than last year’ have led to my joining several online communities each offering their top tips for successful organisation and it’s in these forums I’ve spotted an interesting theme. Several better organised Mums than me (not hard!) have made comments such as:

“I was struggling to find a Santa experience locally that didn’t cost an arm and a leg but our local church has come to the rescue with their Christmas fayre; visits to see Santa for only £5!”

“Have you looked at your local church to see what they’re doing for Christmas? Ours is offering Santa breakfasts for free!”

Great! The local church is connecting with local families this Christmas, meeting needs and making connections but I have to wonder, is this the best that we can offer? Do we really want the church to be known at Christmas as the place where you get to see Santa for free? Don’t we have more to give?

We recently organised a conference for a group of local churches. We had words of wisdom and insight from speakers from across the country, but gave the final words to a 16 year old young man. When we asked him what message he wanted to give to these churches, we probably expected him to talk about the need for ‘more fun’ ‘shorter sermons’ or ‘newer songs,’ but instead, he said “something’s got to change; you treat Jesus like he’s an acquaintance but he’s your friend!” He went on to talk about the way church was boring and that was so wrong because God’s not boring! God does stuff and we get to connect to him! How have we made that boring?

As I reflect on this, I think again about Jesus’ challenge to his disciples in Mark 10:13-16, “let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them” I see again new ways that we are, in fact, hindering the children. We make judgements as to how palatable or attractive Jesus may be, and decide to sweeten the pill; we decide we need a hook to bring people so we can make a subtle mention of Jesus as though he is an afterthought, we create worship services so far removed from acknowledging the presence of Jesus that our young people see them as boring.

Many of us will have already planned our Christmas events and many, like me, will still be ‘finalising arrangements.’ Whether those plans include a free Santa breakfast, a Christmas story trail, Christingles, nativity plays or living nativities, may we all have Jesus words ringing in our ears; “let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them.”