A regular article written by Phillip Jensen in his role as Dean of Sydney at St Andrew's Cathedral.
11th October 2007
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Have you made your Christmas plans yet?
Christmas is such a significant holiday period in the diary that most of us plan early. There are the questions to settle like: when and how we catch up with the family, where we will spend Christmas Day itself and where we will eat Christmas dinner. There is so much to get ready with buying presents, sending cards, and cooking puddings. Then there are the questions of whether we going away on holidays for summer and if so where and for how long.
So, like any well-ordered family we at the Cathedral have started planning Christmas in the Cathedral.
For us it is a time of proclamation and hospitality.
Christmas provides a wonderful opportunity to proclaim our Lord and Saviour to the community. The secularists' attempts to de-Christianise Christmas have faltered in the last few years. Christians no longer need to feel embarrassed about publicly and privately celebrating Jesus' birth at Christmas time.
Our aim this Christmas to declare to our city “the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ”. For though he was rich, yet for our sake he became poor, so that we by his poverty might become rich (2 Corinthians 8:9). Our task is more than recounting the historical events of his miraculous birth. Wonderful as those events were—we proclaim more than his birth. We declare the saving work that he did for us.
This is the great joy that gives rise to song. The birth of any child can bring joyous singing. The birth of the Son of God will inevitably bring the joy of song. But when we know that His birth was to bring us salvation through his death and resurrection our songs know no limits.
So we proclaim his wonderful grace—by the public reading of Scripture, by preaching his gospel, by praying to our heavenly Father, by inviting others to join our celebration and by singing the famous songs of praise.
But our proclamation does not stop on Boxing Day. Christmas is but the beginning of our Summer Sermon Series on “The Grace of God”. We hope that those who visit us on Christmas will return to hear more in January.
This ties into the other side of Christmas at the Cathedral—hospitality. During the Christmas weekend we have several thousand visitors to care for. Over January we have a continuous stream of visitors.
Welcoming, being hospitable, following up newcomers, integrating those who are looking for a new church is a major task at Christmas and during summer. The Cathedral staff alone cannot and should not be responsible for this hospitality. This is the ministry of all our congregational members. We are partners in the Gospel ministry of the Cathedral.
Newcomers and visitors need to feel the welcome of the Lord Jesus Christ. As congregations who meet in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ we covet the reputation of being the most friendly, welcoming, and loving people they have ever met. This Cathedral needs to have a name for real and genuine hospitality, if it is to rightly represent our Saviour.
So Christmas (and Summer) is a time of “all hands on deck.” We do not come just to be fed and encouraged but to serve and to welcome people in the name of Jesus. Our message is grace. Our hospitality must be generous and gracious.
This means coming to more than one meeting. It means serving in several meetings—even though the music may be repetitive and the sermon the same. We come for the sake of our visitors and guests to make them welcome and to serve their needs. There are many jobs and tasks to undertake whenever we have large crowds of visitors in our building. In the next few weeks we will be asking for volunteers to help with particular tasks. But whenever you come—look around, greet strangers, welcome them warmly, pray for them during the gathering and if you see any way to make our Cathedral more hospitable do not wait to be asked. It’s all hands on deck when we come to Christmas.