Naureen Aqueel

‘Christmas is about loving, caring and sharing the graces of God’s love’

Posted on: December 25, 2010

Christmas has a magical aura that seems to draw everyone into the spirit of celebration. Colourful Christmas trees, glimmering candles, sumptuous cakes, melodious carols and Santa Claus act as the face of Christmas festivity. But for practising Christians like Menin Rodrigues, the real spirit of Christmas is “about loving, caring and sharing the goodness and graces of God’s love for His people, and about Jesus coming to our homes.”

Rodrigues calls Christmas a “Holy and Happy occasion”. “Christmas is about God’s People, no one is rich or poor, young or old to await, celebrate and welcome Jesus in their homes, hearts and lives!” he says. “All people come together for special Christmas prayers, commonly known the ‘Midnight Mass’ which is held in all churches on the eve of December 25. On Christmas day, many groups and families make it a point to visit the Old Aged Homes to share happy moments with the old and feeble. Many groups of people and individuals alike, prepare special ‘Hampers’ for poor children and families.”

Reverend Christopher Hawks of the Central Brookes Memorial Church speaks of the same spirit as the catalyst behind the festive mood. “We know that the real meaning of Christmas is that God came down to take care of and love and forgive the ‘undeserving’,” he shares. “‘Undeserving’ expands it to the whole universe; salvation is about the universe. It means we take care of not only humans, but animals and the planet too. Christmas is about taking care of everything and celebrating what God has done for us.”

It is the same spirit which drives Christmas celebrations that start with the Advent Sunday, which is symbolic of the lightning of the four ‘Advent Candles’, each lit on the four Sundays leading to Christmas. “The focus is on preparation for the feast of Christmas – the birth of Jesus Christ,” explains Rodrigues. “This period ahead of Christmas is called Advent – the New Liturgical Year – during which the Church involves her congregation, the faithful, in spiritual preparation for the coming of Jesus. Special activities are held for children during Advent to make them understand the true meaning of Christmas.”

Prior to the beginning of these activities, Central Brookes Memorial Church prints a Christmas card detailing all the programmes lined up for the occasion. The cards are distributed so that people know about the activities beforehand and the Church encourages members of the community to participate actively, says Hawks. Different events like social dinners, prayers and sermons are organised to prepare people for the occasion spiritually. Specific areas attributed to specific services like the Women’s fellowship, the Children’s Bible School and the Youth fellowship organise their own events like singing, dramas etc for the occasion. Like all Churches, Central Brookes Memorial also holds Sunday Carols where the spirit is to worship through singing, explains Hawks.

Rodrigues shares that neighbourhood Advent services are also held in individual homes and Evenings of Carols are held in all the major churches in the city prominently including St Patrick’s Cathedral, The Trinity Cathedral, St Anthony’s Church, Our Lady of Fatima Church and St Lawrence’s Church, including Christmas pageants in schools and colleges. “Choral groups from various parishes (localities where Christians live) participate in these performances, attended by a large number of people,” explains Rodrigues. “Carolers also go singing ‘door-to-door’ – an activity which was very popular in the past but has lost its charm today due to security and safety issues.”

Traditional sweet and cake making is another highlight of Christmas that keeps Christians busy ahead of the big day.

“All Christmas activities lead up to the main event of the Christmas eve mass on the midnight of the 24th of December which is to remember the birth of Jesus Christ in the small town of Bethlehem in Palestine,” says Reverend Dr Pervez Sultan, the principal of St Thomas Theological College. “General celebrations then continue till January 6.”

Hawks says the number of participants in a single event can go up to around 500 to 700 people when other churches are invited to theirs. The main Christmas event, the Midnight Mass which Hawks describes as “the climax of Christmas events” draws approximately 1500 people in the Central Brookes Memorial Church. In St Patricks Cathedral which is the largest Church in Karachi, approximately 4000-5000 attendees show up for the midnight service. In the Holy Trinity Church in which Reverend Sultan’s college is located, the number of attendees come up to around 800 to 900. Marquees are sometimes extended beyond the Church buildings to accommodate the number of people attending.

Speaking about security, Reverend Sultan says the government is conscious is about security and so are the Church authorities. “We have never had any problem as such,” he says. “We look to God for His protection.”

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