After praying for a number of people in his community and reflecting on their needs during lockdown, Miramar Peninsula Vicar Chris Dodds has been inspired to do more for his neighbours.
With support from other churches in the area, they are encouraging neighbours on the Peninsula to place a Christmas tree in their street-facing windows, and to light them up for the 12 days from Sunday 21 June (the shortest day) to Thursday July 2nd.
Each day will provide ideas for family fun, ways to bless your neighbours, and a range of opportunities to engage in conversation and contemplation.
The mid-winter Christmas in Miramar kicked off last Saturday night with carols. The plan had been to sing in a civic area outside the Roxy Cinema.
Weather forced the event indoors, but spirits were not dampened as David Midland and the Salvation Army Brass Band led the rousing mid-winter carols in the drier surrounds of the beautiful St Aidan’s Church.
Chris says it was easy to sell this idea to other churches in the area.
“Everyone immediately jumped on board, caught the vision, and contributed the resources they had.
“One of the great things about the Peninsula is the strong community sense we have. As a group of local pastors, we have been meeting every month for lunch and prayer for a long time.”
Date night and banquet
Throughout the week there will be a variety of ways to participate, including a Great Peninsula Date Night, Kingdom Banquet, and a service of remembrance and lament for people to process their grief, pain and struggles.
Chris says, “The date night comes from a recognition that many marriages are under pressure with the increasing anxiety around jobs, health, and other stresses caused by the pandemic.
We take our cars in for an annual check-up, but often neglect to check in on our marriages. The date night is a way to encourage couples to invest in their relationships and enjoy a free night out together.
“We are providing free childcare. For those that are interested we will provide a follow up marriage enrichment course. People can attend the date night without wanting to take the course though.”
How did the idea come about?
The idea was birthed on Good Friday when Chris sat outside his church near their large cross with a sign asking people how he could pray for them.
Chris wanted to show that God was still present in lockdown and the church was still actively there for people.
He got to pray for a dozen people, including a couple whose marriage was struggling under lockdown, a frontline worker who was struggling with anxiety and an airline pilot who was likely to lose their job.
Reflecting on that time he realised how important it was for the church to be creative in loving their neighbours. To open their doors and hearts to love their neighbours.
From there the idea of a mid-winter Christmas was born.
Why a mid-winter Christmas?
Whatever people’s faith, they hope these 12 days will create joyful memories for families, a greater connection with neighbours, and rich and meaningful conversations.
Chris says “One of the beautiful things about lockdown is that people were forced to slow down. As we all took our daily walks around the neighbourhood people smiled at each other, checked to see how their neighbours were doing and offered to help.
“I hope this doesn’t get lost now that the busyness and distractions are back. I hope we can move from a short conversation checking in on a neighbour to a full conversation around a dinner table, sharing stories, appreciating each other, and talking about things of substance and consequence.
“The 12 days of Christmas touch on important themes of justice, compassion, concern for children, the elderly, and the things we give priority to in our lives.
“These issues are important as we seek to rebuild in a post Covid world.
“From a Christian point of view, Christmas is a time we celebrate God coming to dwell with his people, and entering into the brokenness, suffering, and struggles of the world, to bring about a new creation.”
Chris found God through a profound experience as an 8-year-old, where he received a call to be a priest. It terrified him at the time. Now his greatest joy is in experiencing the love of God.
Chris expands “To realise that at the source of all things is a God that loves us, and that that love goes as far as dying even for enemies, is an extraordinary thing. Nothing can be more joyful than that.”
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