We were praying for it to be dry for the carols in the church garden. A friend had used the St Mary’s Christmas card to invite some mutual friends to a St Mary’s carol service and they had immediately homed in on the carols in the garden. I watched on as an unexpectedly easy invite was enthusiastically accepted! One later congratulated us saying that the garden is the closest anyone has got her to a church.

We enjoyed a Christmas tea together beforehand and arrived for the service with our friends to the comforting sound of the Christmas band and into the beautifully lit and rain free garden.

A quick scan of the QR code provided a ‘lit up’ view of the order of service. It was impossible not to wonder about the events all those years ago, with the cross of the church spire in view and one bright shining star in the sky overhead.

The choir led in their bobble hats and scarves and the Salvation Army band provided a familiar joyful noise. There were some brief comments from Jon Drake between each carol, considering the short reading. We were prompted to think about what kind of God would choose to be born in a manger, and not a palace, and what our response to Christ’s coming should be……Oh Come let us Adore Him.

Seamlessly as the carols ended, servers arrived with beautifully lit trays of mulled punch. “Oh, wow, it’s warm,” said my friend on enjoying the mince pie. Little touches of care and love that seemed so fitting as we celebrated God’s extraordinary love for us.

Being there allowed one of our friends to say, “I would never have come if you had not invited me and I’m so glad I came,” and allowed her to talk about her spiritual journey so far. She said that the service knitted together modern terms ‘Nirvana Spa’ with the Christmas story which felt approachable and said she would consider actually going into the church some time.

Our friends felt the warmth of the celebration and I pray that conversations started in the car on the way home will continue in the weeks and months ahead.