Every year the children from Playwam Nursery School visit the church to see the Crib. This gives me an opportunity to read my favourite Christmas children’s book: Jesus’ Christmas Party by Nicholas Allen. It features a very grumpy innkeeper who is repeatedly woken by all the various nativity characters and bellows at them again and again to go ‘ROUND THE BACK!’

This might be a familiar refrain when it comes to our Crib Services on Christmas Eve. Keeping everyone covid-safe requires us to limit each service to 150 people. Given that we usually get over 400 at each service, we will have to operate a booking system (tickets free via our website) and a livestream. But we will also offer an outdoor option for those who miss the booking window or who prefer to be outside. This will be provided ‘round the back’ of the church, under gazebos, and with speakers relaying the readings and a member of the clergy team leading everyone in the carols. We found this worked well a couple of years ago when we tried it for the first time. Some said they even preferred being ‘round the back’.

I also wonder whether ‘round the back’ is a useful theme to reflect on at this time of year. Who are the people we don’t notice because their work is done ‘round the back’, out of view? Who are the people we prefer to keep ‘round the back’ of our lives, at a distance? Who are the people having to sleep ‘round the back’, behind our shops and alleys? The Christmas message is that Jesus entered our world in a ‘round the back’ kind of way and identified with those who society prefers to keep ‘round the back’.

Let’s not be like the gruff innkeeper and instead give a thought to those ‘round the back’.

Wishing you a joyful Christmas,

Rev Joe Moffatt