Usually at this time of year, I would be busy helping members of my church family get ready to host an annual Advent community event for 120-plus people. Along with an invitation to worship with us at Christmas, these have often been advertised as fellowship, entertainment and a multi-course meal ‘with all the trimmings’.

December calendars for many are full of social, work, school, sporting, family and church commitments.

Pastors, lay workers and worship teams around our LCA/NZ would usually be looking forward to seeing their church buildings full to overflowing for Christmas services. Worship enhanced with beautiful Christmas trees, stars and decorations, carols, dramas or live nativities, big bands or specially convened choirs; home-baked goodies to give out; community events; donations of hampers and gifts for those in need, it’s all on the list for many congregations – in other years.

And there’s nothing wrong with that but, of course, this Christmas will be different for many. Some of our treasured traditions will not be possible. And just as long-suffering Victorians are daring to dream of a more ‘normal’ Christmas than they expected even a month ago, South Australians are getting their heads around a raft of returning restrictions designed to outmanoeuvre another COVID-19 outbreak even as I write.

The pandemic has left many people grieving, ill, financially ruined, anxious and depressed. But lives pared back by necessity have also forced us to re-order our priorities and to reassess our relationships with God and each other. There’s a saying I like that has seldom been more apt: When life brings you to your knees, you’re in the perfect position to pray.

So when all the superficial shininess of Christmas is stripped away, we’re left with the ‘one thing needful’ – the Christ child, God with us, born to save a self-serving world. Rather than taking on all the stresses Martha endures in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus calls us to sit at his feet, like Mary, looking only into his compassionate eyes, hearing only his reassuring words, safe in his love.

This edition we look at Christmas without the trimmings – sometimes known as trappings for good reason – and share stories of congregations planning for new ways of worshipping and connecting with their communities. There are ideas and resources to help celebrate the birth of Christ differently, whether at church or home, and we reflect on the blessings of a simpler life at this time of year.

As this is the last edition for 2020, I would like to thank you, our readers, subscribers, group collectors and other ambassadors, for your loyalty and we look forward to your continued support. Please keep encouraging others to join us – a subscription makes a great Christmas gift! My gratitude also goes to our wonderful team, which brings you The Lutheran. Thank you to Linda Macqueen (executive editor), Elysia McEwen (graphic designer), our regular contributors Helen Beringen, Rebecka Colldunberg and Mark Hadley, proofreaders Lyall Kupke, Kathy Gaff and Pastor David Strelan, and Trevor Bailey and all at Openbook Howden.

Have a safe, joyful and blessed Christmas,

– Lisa

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