Slowly the list of Christmas services and events is being ticked off.
Every year the music service produces a mini musical which loads of primary schools from across the county prepare and rehearse for weeks and then come together at key venues to perform in front of audiences of mainly admiring parents and grandparents. The production is usually a stunning masterpiece by Tony Biggin, who happens to live in my parish. He has written these for the last few years and he has that special gift of being able to write catchy tunes and lyrics that appeal to children and adults alike. They are great occasions and this year’s is called Fipple and the Fire Brigade about a cute kitten and how the East Sussex Fire and Rescue is needed to rescue him. The ESFRS have been very supportive and have sent engines to a number of the venues for children to ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ at. I had the pleasure of providing the link narration for a couple of performances last year and they asked me back to narrate for all of them this year. I do enjoy it though. There’s a bit of thespian in most vicars and I am no exception so it is great fun, and it is such a wonderful privilege to be with the children and to see their excitement and sense of fun. Over the years Tony has woven the stories around nativities and elements of the Christmas story. This year it focusses on Christmas trees, kittens and pantomimes with crucial roles by the fire service and Father Christmas. It has been quite amazing, and silly, how there has often been criticism of how the explicitly religious aspects have been treated in past productions. This year about the only overtly religious aspect is that a vicar is doing the narration! I am happy to be involved though as the schools from my parish took part and the children will have seen me, their vicar, taking a significant role. It is also because God loves children and wants them to be happy, and these Big Sings are a tremendous experience for them. Churches can get too hung up on this and press for Christmas being totally religious to the exclusion of any sense of fun. Oliver Cromwell tried that – and failed! If we Christians can’t allow one of our most stupendous joyous Festivals of the year to bring people a bit of fun then we really are missing the point! So, let’s hear it for Fipple!