Every Christmas and Easter, one of my duties as State Leader for Tasmanian Baptists is to write a short reflection for the Mercury Newspaper.
My earliest memories of Christmas are a jumble of excitement, carol singing, presents, meals with the extended family and trotting off to church. My grandfather led the choir there and his baritone solos had won him many a competition.
Aged about five, I was taken to hear Handel’s Messiah because Dad was singing in it. I remember going to sleep half way through only to be woken for the Hallelujah chorus. I promptly went back to sleep again! Despite this, or perhaps because of it, I’m deeply moved by the chorus and the carols.
Many more people in Tasmania went to church back then than do now. I’m part of the minority that still do. For me, Handel’s Messiah and the carols tell a story that provides orientation, meaning and hope in our troubled world. I’m thankful for the gift they are to me.
I’m surprised, however, given how many no longer go to church, that Carols by Candlelight and Handel’s Messiah are as popular as ever.
Originating in Melbourne, and spreading across the world, Carols by Candlelight is truly a uniquely Australian Christmas tradition. Singing carols together itself is not unique, broadcasting it is. Thousands of Australians sit in front of their flat-screens watching Melbourne’s Carols by Candlelight or Sydney’s Carols in the Domain.
Despite turning their backs on the church, Christmas stirs many Australian hearts. The story about the Creator of the Universe entering our world as a baby still resonates. Why is that? My prayer is that it is more than just nostalgia, and is a deep yearning for meaning, connection and hope. I trust you find it this Christmas.