It was 7 years ago this month when I moved into Stone. It was a dark, drizzly December day and the forecasters were talking about the possibility of some light snow. As a newish widow, I was still struggling to feel any sense of excitement or Christmas cheer.
Then the following day, while walking along the High Street, I couldn’t help noticing several shops with hand decorated art work, all portraying the true meaning of Christmas. I slowly started to feel lifted and was surprised to be suddenly overtaken by tears – tears of joy.
We can only wonder how many other people over the last nine Christmas seasons have been touched by what they saw or heard at a Window Opening ceremony. And as the days of December moved on with more windows lit up with the Christmas message of the Baby Jesus, it’s hard to think that there wasn’t anyone who had not been touched by what they saw.
BUT what about the people who do not know what to believe, people without faith or people trapped into following false gods and the opinions of others. Perhaps they were moved? We’ll never know for sure.
But I’m guessing that most of the people who have been involved with putting together the Advent Windows over the years – the organisers, the volunteers, the schools, the businesses and traders – they will have known in someway that they were FOR SURE witnessing God’s presence in today’s world.
It was the first rainy advent window this year, but that didn’t deter the 30+ people and dog who gathered outside Vantage Point Creative for the unveiling of the sixth advent window.
It was started off with a reading by two pupils from St Dominic’s Priory School, telling of Joseph being called to Bethlehem for the census. The window was revealed and we sang the carol ‘In the Bleak Midwinter’. The attractive window display was created by year 8 pupils and depicted scenes and words from the first verse, in detailed miniature paintings.
After admiring the window we were treated to mulled wine and refreshments in the shop. It is wonderful to be part of this event around the town which serves to remind us, the shopkeepers, the window decorators and the passers by, just why we celebrate this season of Christmas.
The tenth year of the Advent Windows started at Christ Church with a beautiful window designed and created by Oulton Church. We started with a joint service for the whole benefice where we shared communion together. With so many people attending the one service it was difficult to coordinate the service finish time. Despite this we were only about 5 minutes late opening the window. The joint congregation gathered at the centre entrance and joined in joyful voice singing O Come Emmanuel. This year we have a beautiful banner to cover the window before it’s great revealing but it still needs a tall person to help unveil it!
The Town Mayor and his consort were in attendance and led the countdown. Then we all went back into the church centre to share a delicious cake with our tea and coffee.
I’ve been excited for these advent windows for some time, having never spent an advent period in Stone before.
I have not been disappointed. Despite the uninviting weather, many have braved the harsh conditions to sing and pray at 11am as a window depicting an aspect of the Christmas story is revealed, tying into the theme of following the Star.
Although I haven’t been able to make it to every opening, I have been blown away by the ones I have attended. It is so lovely to see different stores and community groups in stone coming together to reveal something of the truth of the Christmas story. People’s creativity in their window displays stands out as well: one particular notable piece was the creation of a donkey made out of plant pots!
What’s also been lovely to see is the different groups of children from the schools in the area come down, and lend their voices to the singing as we open their advent windows. These windows have shown how wonderful it is to have all generations come together at Christmas time.
At this time of year we think about the coming of Jesus into the world, and what his birth means for us. Hopefully these windows have sparked an interest in Jesus in those who have taken part. The journey to Bethlehem would have been an arduous trek for Joseph and a pregnant Mary, and yet Jesus’ birth has made al the difference to our world. Hopefully it will remind people throughout Stone of the amazing truth that ‘God so loved the word that he gave his only son, so that all who believe may not perish but have eternal life.’ (John 3:16). Out of love God sent Jesus to save us from what we’ve done wrong: and hopefully these advent windows have met the community of Stone with that love.
These windows have been an amazing way to see the community of Stone connect with the real truth of the Christmas story. Do come down to all the ones you can make! I am especially looking forward to the Christmas Eve round up where we will see them all from beginning to end!