Once a year, around Christmas, St Andrews at Reservoir hosts it main community outreach event - Carols on the Lawns. This event is a localised carol service which takes advantage of the warmer summer months by having a sausage sizzle and then gathering on the lawn out the front of the church to sing a number of Christmas Carols, including favourites such as Silent Night, The First Noel, and Hark the Herald Angels Sing (though we are spared the more secular tunes such as Jingle Bells, and Deck the Halls).
It is not just singing carol after carol as short talks, and a few 'Dad Jokes', are thrown in between. What was interesting this year was that Pastor John told us the origin of 'Carols by Candlelight' (thanks to the fountain of wisdom that happens to be Wikipedia). The story goes that a radio announcer was walking home one night when he saw a lady sitting alone in the dark singing carols next to a candle. Understanding that nobody should be alone at Christmas time, he established an event that has since spread around the world (though since Christmas falls during the Australian summer, our climate greatly helps with such an event).
|Hard at work preparing the Feast|
|The finished product|
The great thing about having a sausage sizzle beforehand is that people really don't like to turn down a free meal, and the number of people that come to the church simply for that goes to show how effective it can be. Hey, my housemates have always been happy to come along for a bit of a feed, and they even stay around for the carols afterwards.
Being a family affair, there are always activities available for the children such as face painting. The children at Kid's Church even join in the event, this year creating a some puppets and performing their own puppet show. It helps us understand that church is not just for the adults, with a place to put the children while the adults are doing adult things. Far from it, the children play a significant role within the church family, and by having them participate in the carols helps others see this in action.
|Great artists hard at work|
|Great performers of the future|
Of course, such an event does not happen over night, there is a lot of planning that goes into it, such as printing and distributing the flyers, setting up the hall, stage managing the production, and of course cooking the food. I'm not sure how many cards were printed, but there certainly was a lot (as it turns out, 5000 flyers were printed, and we had a hundred left over), and even with the huge stack that I took to letter box drop I only managed to scratch the surface of the area that I was wandering around (and that is taking into account that I generally don't put anything into letter boxes that say 'no junk mail'). On Saturday we spent the afternoon decorating the hall, while people were busily preparing supper at home (or simply doing what I do, and that is wander into my local Woolworths and purchase some cakes).
|Special care goes into stacking these plates.|
|Sometimes a bit of lateral thinking is required|
|Finally, the hall has been decked|
Mind you, when the carols have been sung, and the sun starts to set, it is not the end by any means (and I am not referring to the work required to tidy everything up - though we must remember those who stay back late to do so), because everybody then moves into the hall for a spot of supper. However, that is probably an understatement because once again, this year, another sweet filled feast was laid out for all to enjoy.
|Winding down after a hard evening of singing|
|A sumptuous feast|
However, there is much more to this event than just singing songs, eating sausages, and socialising over a cup of tea (or coffee) and cake, because the whole event is about reminding us and our community about why we celebrate Christmas. It is more than just a few days off work, a big lunch, and ripping paper off of gift wrapped presents: it is about remembering an event that occurred two thousand years ago when a child was born in a back shed and placed into a feeding trough. This baby was no ordinary baby, and despite his humble origins, ignoble death, and poverty, he grew up to become one of the most influential people that our world has ever known. To us, who put on this event, this baby grew up to become Jesus, an man who ended his life on a Roman Cross simply because he challenged the way society thought at the time.
|A traditional nativity scene|
However, he was not a martyr in the ordinary sense, and while he was fully human, he was much, much more. We Christians believe that Jesus is in fact God, coming down to Earth, putting on the flesh of humanity, experiencing the struggles, torments, and sorrows that each and every one of us experience, and then submitting himself to death, and a pretty ignoble death at that, so that our relationship with God may be restored. This was the reason why St Andrews throws this event every year because they desire to proclaim this magnificent event so that the rest of us may hear and understand this great news, and even if we missed out this year, we don't have to wait around until next year to hear the message again because every Sunday, without fail, we all meet at the church, at 10:00 am, to celebrate this glorious event.
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