A Christmas Tree was recently erected in the church for the festive period. This might appear to be a mere organisational matter, albeit one that can generate much fun, but there is a serious issue about timing behind it. When is the correct time to put the Christmas tree up?
Traditionally, the Christmas tree was put up on Christmas Eve. This was to mark the beginning of the Twelve Days of Christmas, which ended with Epiphany on 6th January. Although some Christians would keep the tree up until Candlemas, most put the decorations away at Epiphany. Putting the tree up on Christmas Eve allowed time for Advent, the period leading up to Christmas, to be properly followed. It was a time of waiting and preparation. Consequently, most churches used to only put their Christmas tree up on the 4th Sunday of Advent in the afternoon, as this led appropriately into the Service of Nine Lessons and Carols – the traditional carol service that came into being after the First World War and first created by Truro Cathedral.
However, the commercial pressures of Christmas have largely taken away the period of Advent.  Even the Advent Calendar, a creative way of marking the journey to Christmas, now allows the great day to arrive early through chocolate being supplied daily behind newly opened doors.  Thus Christmas seems to begin on the 1st December in most homes in England today, roughly the beginning of Advent.  That is very often the day when the Christmas tree appears in most homes too.  However, for churches the problem is this, how do we remain faithful to Advent whilst not being seen as too influenced by Scrooge in our timings?
At St Saviour’s our youth team helped put the tree up, in time for our first Christmas event.  How to keep Christmas from taking over Advent?  Well the Vicar has decided that the tree will be up but the lights won’t be on until The Light has arrived.  Therefore the lights will be glowing at the Christmas Carol Service this Sunday evening at 6.00pm and will remain until the big day.  Not totally logical, but a reasonable compromise.  If you wish to come and see our tree and to join in with Christmas worship, why not join us on Sunday?  Everyone will be very welcome.