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Many parishes are implementing strategies for making contact with those who have fallen away from the regular practice of their faith. Christmas Masses are key times for connecting with infrequent church attendees. Parishes need to make the most of the opportunity to offer a good experience of worship and to issue invitations to other parish activities. Every parishioner at Christmas Masses has a responsibility to seize this once-a-year chance to evangelise simply through their joyful celebration of Christmas.
Additional hospitality ministers will need to be rostered for Christmas Masses to ensure that everyone who enters the building is greeted with a cheery ‘Happy Christmas’. The parish bulletin at this time of year should be full of useful information, including the names and contact details of pastoral staff and the address of the parish website, as well as news items about interesting parish activities in which people are invited to participate.
It is important that arrangements and rehearsals are finished well before people start arriving for Christmas Masses so that there is time and space for hospitality. Liturgy committee members fussing with last-minute details and liturgical ministers grumbling impatiently at others do not create the sort of welcoming and sacred atmosphere that might encourage visitors to return before next Christmas.
At Christmas we celebrate the amazing truth that God became one of us. Both regular and occasional worshippers need and deserve to hear the real message of Christmas – that Jesus did not remain a helpless infant, that he grew up, lived and died and rose again, and, most importantly, that he is still Emmanuel, ‘God with us’, here and now, amongst the trials and tribulations of our everyday lives.
The liturgical texts for Christmas are among some of the most wonderful prayers of the Church. “Today a new day dawns, the day of our redemption, prepared by God from ages past, the beginning of our never ending gladness.” This response from the Office of Readings for Christmas sums up what it is the Church celebrates during this season - the beginning of the mystery of salvation which had been God's plan from all eternity.
The Christmas II preface also expresses this concept powerfully and poetically: "Christ is your Son before all ages, yet now he is born in time. He has come to lift up all things to himself, to restore unity to creation, and to lead mankind from exile into your heavenly kingdom."
A high point of the Christmas celebrations is the reading of St John's prologue: "The Word was made flesh, he lived among us, and we saw his glory---", the Gospel reading for Mass on Christmas day.
Many of the Mass prayers use the image of light: "Father, you make this holy night radiant with the splendour of Jesus Christ our light. We welcome him as the true light of the world.” (Opening Prayer, Mass at Midnight).
Shirley Murray’s lyrics for the song Star Child express the hopes and prayers of many at this time of year:
“Hope for peace Child, God’s stupendous sign,
down to earth Child, Star of stars that shine:
this year, this year let the day arrive
when Christmas comes for everyone, everyone alive.”