Kerrie was as excited as any young child waking up on Christmas morning.
We opened our gifts and cards while overlooking the beautiful, peaceful lake at Dumaresq Dam from our bedroom window.
I cooked Kerrie’s favourite breakfast of Eggs Benedict made with fresh ham off the bone and brewed an espresso coffee which we drank as we soaked up the stillness of the morning.
After a hot shower and dressing we headed off the 14 kilometres into Armidale to the Uniting church in the centre of the city.
Armidale is a historic, cultured sort of town and its many beautiful old churches bare testimony to the extent of the Christian faith of the early townspeople.
As we drove into the city centre and parked beside Lambert Park with all its beautiful old trees and its exploding colour from a thousand different flower species, we noticed first that all the churches were crowded. People were quite literally swarming into the city to attend church showing that the Christian heritage of Armidale is still very much alive and well.
We walked along the street to the sound of church bells! It’s been so long since we’d heard the sound of church bells ringing out over town. It was a wonderful sound and it added so much to the atmosphere of Christmas. We just walked slowly on soaking up the atmosphere as the sound of the bells became interspersed with the sound of a pipe organ playing Christmas Carols as the voices of a congregation already in worship rose in song. It was a sound we’ll never forget.
We made our way into the beautiful historic old Armidale Uniting church to warm greetings and quickly filling pews. Stained glass windows, polished pitched roof timbers, large brass organ pipes and polished timber pews all combined to take us back to a time when church was a major part of life.
The church quickly filled to overflowing with people – children, teenagers, middle aged and elderly. As the worship started it was a delight to listen to the music of the huge pipe organ and to sing the Christmas songs that are so powerful in their words. This experience is what we longed for, to be in church on Christmas Day singing carols – the full verses not just the popular verses – and to lose ourselves in the significance of the words as we sang them.
The lady Minister, Anita Munro, preached a message that was so significant for today’s world. She spoke of the extent that our lives are influenced by the perfect world of media representation. The perfect wife taking perfectly ironed clothes straight out of the washing machine, her hair and makeup also perfect.
The immaculately dressed family at play inside a designer home sparkling with colour coordinated furniture, clean and nothing out of place. The parent filling a shopping trolley to overflowing with expensive stuff and, as a result smiling happily in a desperate attempt by the media to make us feel that unless we do the same we’re just not normal.
She spoke of how far removed from reality this media inspired version of life is and how the event that changed the world 2000 years ago, the birth of Christ, is also the subject of a media distortion.
Almost every aspect and circumstance of the popular view of the events that led to the birth of Christ are completely out of whack with reality. The vision we are sold of the Christ child in the warm manger, wrapped in a clean white cloth, not a blade of hay out of place with the whole scene lit with the cosy glow of lanterns and surrounded by perfectly clean animals, mother immaculately dressed, is so distorted that any thinking person would laugh at the story.
The reality of the story, of course, is vastly different from our popular conception and the Minister skilfully related at least something of what the real scene would have been like.
As the service closed and we left the building to warm farewells and a bag of fresh bread that was handed to anyone wanting it, we felt we had captured a little of the Christmas’s of our past.
It’s worth us coming back to Armidale next year just for this Christmas morning experience.
This series of 5 audio broadcasts from Chuck Missler is, in my opinion, the best teaching ever on the real Christmas Story.