Christmas Reimagined at Tuggeranong
On Sunday, 20 December, over 400 people experienced the Christmas story in a new and vibrant way, at Tuggeranong Uniting Church’s Christmas Reimagined event.
As people entered the church grounds they registered with an angel, sent to warn them of the plague that had descended on the earth, and remind them of their need to register in case contact tracing was required
Once in the church grounds, King Herod welcomed the people into his realm — and given the number of children who were attending with their parents, he wanted to reassure them that any rumours about what he intended to do with young children was “Fake News”.
As people visited the various stalls, with craft items, preloved clothing, candles, and reusable bags, they mingled with members of the Tuggeranong Uniting Church, dressed in costume, sharing what they knew from their part of the story. The Girls Brigade stall offered craft activities for the children, the local Rural Fire Service was present with their truck and equipment to speak with people about their work, and a sausage sizzle and cafe was running for the full three hours of the event.
An innkeeper greeted people and offered UnitingWorld cards for sale, while some wise men—and one wise woman—dispensed advice, shepherds told of the angelic message they had heard, and a roving prophet declaimed to the crowds his spirit-inspired message: “unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given … his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace”.
Joseph and Mary were in the crowd, and spent time with children as they queued to visit the petting zoo, with its array of animals recreating the scene of the birth of Jesus. A midwife was on hand, just in case she was needed! Inside the building, age-appropriate stories for children were told throughout the evening, as children were encouraged to hear the Christmas story in a variety of ways.
In a quiet corner of the building, a space for reflection was offered with the theme of a Blue Christmas—an opportunity to remember loved ones no longer present with us at Christmas. But outside, and in the main auditorium, there was the bustle and buzz of excitement as befits the festive nature of the season.
Tuggeranong Uniting Church decided to hold an interactive event for congregation and community which we named Christmas Reimagined as we knew Christmas this year would be profoundly different from the perspective of the community due to the usual events and Carols by Candlelight being mostly cancelled due to Covid-19 restrictions. We felt some reimagining was in order to produce something that was still Christmassy, but also different and more imaginative.
Our reimagined event was very different from our traditional Christmas services. It involved live wandering characters from the nativity story who shared their stories with visitors. It helped give people some of that advent hope, peace, joy and love after a difficult year, as well as helping them engage with the enduring and beautiful story of Jesus’ birth.
Our Christmas Reimagined provided a sensory and interactive experience that immersed people in the story of the birth of Jesus and alerted them to its spiritual implications for their lives. We know that unchurched people want to celebrate Christmas, and part of the mission of TUC is to assist them to do this. A story with love and hope at its heart makes a pretty irresistible force when it is shared creatively with a community. We also noted from our research that generosity shown by a church makes a good impression on unchurched people (see McCrindle’s blog about this here.)
At Tuggeranong Uniting Church, webelieve that the Gospel of Jesus calls us into action in the world, to promote justice, peace, equality and basic human rights for all. We hope our Christmas Reimagined event has strengthened connections with our community, and will start a journey for people that ends with them becoming faithful followers of Christ.
Rev. Dr Elizabeth Raine is Minister of the Word at Tuggeranong Uniting Church