~ Posted by Robert Butler, December 29th 2011
A citizenship survey in the news the week before Christmas showed that Christians in Britain are much less likely to attend a place of worship than followers of other faiths. I have an idea why. On Christmas Day I went with a relative to a parish church for Eucharist. There were about 60 people in the church, mainly adults, some children. The vicar arrived a little late and apologised because this was his third service that morning.
Then, in his friendliest way, he asked us if we knew whose birthday it was. That bit wasn't surprising. Anglican vicars are well-known for their chumminess. The vicar looked around the congregation and a mother in the pew in front of me held up her one-year-old daughter. I was just about to lean forward and say that I thought the vicar might have Someone Else in mind, when the vicar went, "Yes, it's Lucy's birthday!"
So the first thing we did at Eucharist on Christmas Day was sing "Happy birthday dear Lucy happy birthday to you." The words didn't come very easily. We were there to celebrate the birth of the Son of God 2000 years ago. As I understood it, God had sent His Only Begotten Son from heaven to earth to save the world from sin. It was a pretty big deal. The village service didn't have to be overly solemn, but a sense of the sacred would have been in order. Half-way through "Happy Birthday" the one-year-old turned and looked at me, so I joined in. After that, the vicar asked the congregation what Santa had brought them for Christmas.