Christmas previews underway

Nativity manger with really baby (800x533)When it comes, the Dubai Christmas warm up comes in a rush. Over the last week 6 carols services with one more to enjoy tonight. Then it’s over! Funny how Dubai always does Christmas early in a desperate rush to fit it all in before so many people go away back home for the main event! Still, there’s lots that stay too, more and more each year as costs increase faster than salaries, and it will be good to see you all.

The chamber choir at the Mission to Seafarers Concert last Thursday started with an interesting version of a well known song (Es ist ein Ros) – listening to it on my computer it’s a bit boring but in the acoustic of our church it was absolutely magical as the chords meshed in an out of focus. Reminded me of when they did Lux Arumque (It’s about time they put some quality youtube clips out of their own performances as they are as good as the links I give 😉 ) On Friday of course we had our own Nativity and carols service pictured above with a real live baby Jesus. The children were of course wonderful but I think only the Friday school teachers will appreciate how much it takes to get such a bunch together! On Saturday we had a Christingle and carols service – at the DESC there are thick curtains so we could enjoy the candles in darkness with the lights off very well. That was followed by a Guides and Brownies Christingle in the same hall so we darkened it again for that and there had my second mince pie of the season.Guides Brownies Rainbow Christingle service at Academic City 2014 (800x450) I do find this time of year very moving, normally because of the memories of years past but this year it is the recent years past that are uppermost in my mind because we’re leaving Dubai. So many beautiful Nativity plays and Uniformed Organisations services we have done together! Memories of eleven Christmas concerts each from the Dubai Chamber Choir and Dubai Singers to add to the mix of feelings as I hear their wonderful harmonies fill our church – how much I long for their concerts, filled with words of Christian teaching and worship, to be sung to God rather than to the audience, and for the audience to become, with the choir, a congregation praising God! Of course many in their concerts ARE praising God and I encourage you not to let this warm up be the heart of your Christmas – come for the main event!

Christmas Midnight 11pm, and Christmas Day 9.30am. If you have family visiting who have missed it, or just want to sing some more carols and pray to God together, we have another Christingle service at Christ Church on the 28th at 6pm.

And of course, don’t forget we’re open every week for private prayer, and any Friday 9.30am, Saturday 9.30am (Academic City) and Sunday 7.30pm to join with others to sing carols galore until 12th night :) .

The Return of the Wise Men

three-wise-men-hiI’ve now had my second mince pie of the season – at a Christmas band and choir concert which had a total absence of any mention of Jesus, unless you count the excellent rendition of an orchestral arrangement of Adeste Fideles. All the music was very well done and I enjoyed it but it did strike me as a little weird to miss out the Christian part of the story entirely. I got quite emotional when singing ‘I’m dreaming of a white Christmas’ because I really was casting my mind back to those days – Ah, yes, those were the days! I didn’t have to worry about presents or Christmas dinner then either because Mum and Dad took care of all that while we went sledging.

I have also enjoyed another Christmas party for the prison ministry – we hope to get our usual permission for our Christmas Service inside sometime near Christmas Day, but the party was for visitors to the prison who come from different churches across Dubai. We didn’t have any mince pies but we had plenty of talk of Jesus with prayers and dancing and so on with some Christmas brownies and samosas. 

We are still very much ‘on the way’ enjoying all the previews – carol services timetable here. The wise men, pictured here, are still some time away but I encourage you to think about joining us on their return journey – we are planning a desert retreat on the 10th-11th January with Revd. Murray Brown who led our Lenten desert retreat last year. We will leave after church on the 10th and join up for lunch together. After that we go in convoy, as in the picture but motorised (wouldn’t it be fun to go on camels though!), to our next stop, then on by foot (except for drivers who go on to set up camp) to our third stop, before going on by foot to our camp site. Children welcome too. It’s a bring your own everything event – food, tent, etc. If you have no tent, but would like to try it, please email our office and we will try to link you up with someone who has a tent but can’t make the camp. Geant did have a good bargain – three person tents for Dhs 75, but that’s finished. Maybe Carrefour has a bargain? It will be near enough to drive home, but for those who stay (or who return early), there is a dawn service, reflection and more during the morning in the desert and at our Academic City church. If you are moved to stay in the camp for longer then bring more food :-) I’m hoping for good weather!

In the mean time, come to church and celebrate Christmas. If you are worried about the crowds (what a lovely problem to have to cope with!) then come to church beforehand and ask alternative directions to the churches from those who know the local routes – it’s not easy to describe it over the phone ;-). 

 

Christmas Freedoms in a Muslim land

Girlguiding carol service Safa group 2 (800x450)Just had the Safa Girlguiding District Christmas Celebration 2013 and my first mince pie of the season! What an amazingly organised group they are! Loads of them in santa hats or with red reindeer antlers and a noisy atmosphere of celebration. Of just over  300 girls in the district (in Guides, Brownies and Rainbows) there were about 120 of them in church. We sang about Santa Claus and Reindeers but also Bethlehem and Jesus, with poems and bible readings, finishing with ‘Feed the world’ which brought us neatly to the practical application of such a remembrance of Christ coming to help the poor as well as the rich.

Back in England where I come from I don’t think they go to church any more, which is a shame for an organisation originating with a Christian heritage. But here in Islamic UAE it’s not problem because Muslims understand about God and are not embarrassed that Christians should want to celebrate Christmas with prayers and songs about Jesus – indeed they find it amusing and even shocking that so many in England and America put pressure on Christians to keep quiet about the Christian side of the Christmas story in schools and organisations such as these, in an effort, supposedly,  to avoid offending them. It’s great being in a country that is not embarrassed about religion and about God and is happier really when people include God in their conscious thoughts each day and pray to him, living the life that is at peace with him.

It was a joy to celebrate with such a wonderful crowd tonight – though, given my previous blog about waiting I had to explain why only one of the candles on the Advent Ring was lit and that this Carol service was a trailer for the main feature, a preview, a sneak peak – and I’m afraid when they sang the last verse of O Come all ye faithful I just had to keep mum! I just can’t do it – that verse is for Christmas morning! Not long now! I used the occasion of course as a chance to advertise our Advent/Christmas schedule and I encourage you to invite those you know to church this Advent time 😉

Christmas Quiet

I’ve been a bit quiet on the blog posting front. Well, it’s been busy. We are now almost at the end of the carol concerts season – just one more to go on Sunday night  (16th at 7.30pm) with our 9 Lessons and Carols, before about two thirds of our congregation disappear on holiday. To me the carol concerts season and the Christmas season are quite different. Mostly, the carols concerts are about celebrating the fun of the season with performance, taking as our theme the Christmas story who’s celebration is still to come. It’s like an old fashioned party time at home where each brings a skit and we all rejoice together. I like it, but I also find it difficult, because for me it seems so odd to listen to a brilliant rendition of a meditative song like Lux Arumque for example (see below for the meaning) and then follow it with rowdy applause. There is little thought for the music or the words as we enjoy being caught up in the performance – although the music and the words could leave us lost in wonder, there is no time to be lost there, the applause slaps us back to reality then dies quickly to launch us onto another song and we’re off again, admiring how clever they all are, thoroughly entertained!

Our 9 Lessons and Carols service has always been something in between. It’s still a concert in a sense, and we will applaud the choir at the end, but there’s no applause between songs but rather a steady progression of  reflection though all those bible readings and some prayers. After the froth of the carols concerts season this service is a good transition to the  Christmas season. Those who find the party is enough will return next year for the concerts and they will all be very welcome. Those who wish ‘in heart and mind to go even unto Bethlehem and see this thing which is come to pass’ await their celebration still.

I would love to hear Lux Arumque at our Christingle service (Sunday 23rd 6pm). We are doing baptisms as well in the service and it is so beautiful. We make the Christingles in the service itself, and interweave the baptism liturgy with Christingle liturgy ending by the crib, presenting the baptism candles, a sign of new life in the world, and then lighting all the Christingles from those candles and sing round the crib where life is to be revealed to the world. The main church lights go out and there we are, all those children, yet to discover the meaning of the simple stable and its guests, bathed in golden light – Lux, lux, lux, et canunt angeli molliter natum modo natum. The children would never stand still long enough for the song, and even if they did, the parents couldn’t relax while all those candles are burning so beautifully! LOL But it’s a moment to remember I can tell you.

Through December Mary and Joseph have, week by week, been making their way from the back of the church nearer to the stable. Next week I expect they’ll have reached the stable and there’ll be sheep in the fields – the coffee area ;-). Each week we add another couple of Christmas trees and a few more baubles to the church decorations. One pastor of a guest congregation complained because he had his Christmas service today and he said our decorations looked a bit ‘weak’ but the caretakers laughed and told him it wasn’t Christmas yet. We have been pulling out the stops a few at a time but come Christmas morning there’ll be a babe in the crib, lights on the trees, and I hope, you. Christmas Eve 11pm and Christmas Day 9.30am. I wish you a happy Advent for now.

Lux Arumque (light of gold) is a Latin translation of Edward Esch’s poem:

Light,

warm and heavy as pure gold

and the angels sing softly

to the new-born baby.

 

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