The notice outside Bath Abbey this morning says it all. Today’s special Christmas morning service – being televised live by the BBC – is full.
There is another service at noon on Christmas Day – which is not a ticketed affair – and which will be useful information for anyone disappointed that they could not get a seat for the televised service that starts at ten am.
At the eastern end the Rector, the Revd Prebendary Edward Mason, was pictured – a couple of days ago – directing finishing touches to one of two trees being installed and decorated either side of the choir stalls.One of the trees is surrounded by a pile of shoes and is decorated with the faces of children. Its meaning will become clear in today’s (Christmas Day) service.
It will start at 10.00am and last for an hour and – says an Abbey spokesperson – will build upon the theme of “healing hope”. As well as major contributions from the Abbey choirs and a celebration of Holy Communion, a central emphasis will be placed on the Abbey’s missions in Bath and across the world.
There will be testimony from Abbey clergy who recently visited Beit Sahour in Palestine, from a Church warden connected with a home for orphaned children in Tamil Nadu, India and a contribution from a member of the Genesis Trust supporting the homeless here in Bath.
The centrepieces of the decorations are two large Christmas trees that stand either side of the main stage. One is decorated in the traditional way but the other is unusually and specially decorated with items which speak to the theme of the service. Visitors enquiring about this ‘strangely decorated tree’ are encouraged to tune in on Christmas day to find out more.
Speaking on the event, Revd Stephen Girling, Bath Abbey Missioner, said: “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for us to show the Abbey at its best. Our staff and volunteers have worked tirelessly with the BBC to ensure this is a celebration worthy of the joyfulness of the birth of Jesus Christ.
We hope people will see the Abbey as it is in everyday life; a tremendous mix of young and old, formal and informal, traditional and contemporary – demonstrating the love of God right at the heart of a busy international city.”
Just for the record – the Rector told the Virtual Museum that he is not against having Christmas trees in the Abbey. He just doesn’t want them during Advent – a season observed in many Western Christian churches as a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas.
There isn’t much of a gap between the last Advent Sunday and Christmas Day but this year there’s a whole five days and two lovely trees to admire.