It's always a challenge to think of something new to do with the big festivals in the church year ( and I don't mean Greenbelt ). This is my 21st Christmas as a 'Rev' and I'm not someone who thrives on doing the same thing in the same way year after year. On 'normal' Sundays the readings go on a 3 year cycle, so that maintains the variety, but Christmas is, well, Christmas. And I have always held the view that if you only meet people's expectations in your programme, you're never able to challenge or stretch them.
This year we're looking to take part in Lancashire Sings Christmas, so that will be something new to put energy into. It's an interactive carol service, in partnership with BBC Radio Lancashire, to be held at venues that aren't church buildings. If you're in Lancashire, there's still time to get organised and join in (or if you're in Leicestershire, the original Sing Christmas will also be taking place).
Sometimes I've inserted a more challenging reading, such as a poem or meditation into carol services. I think it's good to stimulate thinking or even be provocative, and not just tell the predictable story in the way they expect. The problem is, of course, that you get complaints. in my experience they have always come from non-regulars who come to church at Christmas. I well remember using a resource from TEAR Fund when I was a curate. A few days later we received a letter from a parishioner, who only came occasionally to things like carol services, complaining about the sketch and its script and referring to this 'outfit' who wrote the material. We replied politely, gently pointing out that the Bishop of Southwell was a prominent supporter.
So whilst I won't be using it in our carol service this year (as it's already planned), I fully recommend reading a reflection on Christmas by Martin Wroe, which is on the Ship of Fools website. SoF is best known for its satirical monitoring of the Christian world, but it has a more serious side, and I thought this piece was excellent. If you're feeling brave and you haven't planned your carol services in detail yet...