I’m the sort of person who, when it comes to an annual event, likes to back to first principles. That is I ask myself, “Why do we do this?” When this year’s Santa Parade rolled around again in Howick, it was no exception. For the past four years our church has got involved in building some kind of float with a message about what Christmas is really about and joined in the throng. It’s a lot of work and effort with no visible results (church attendance doesn’t increase because of it), so when it came to the build-up to the event in October I couldn’t help but wonder if it was all worth it.
Over 7000 people from in and around Howick gather on the sidewalks to watch the parade. Various organizations have a spot, each trying to advertise, promote or sell something – a product, a name, a cause. I guess we were unique in all that in that all we wanted to do is communicate something – namely the true meaning of Christmas, that God sent His only Son Jesus into the world as a baby so he could die for our sins and rise again to offer us new life.
The question is, how do you do that in a Santa Parade?
We started with something everyone recognizes – Joseph, Mary and a manger. Then we went for some musicians, appropriately dressed for the occasion, to play a series of Christmas carols that speak about Jesus’ birth. Then we decorated the float so that it at least looked the part. But there was still something missing – an explanation as to what it all means. We needed a sign. But what to put on it? “Joy to the world, the Lord has come.” Yes, but who exactly is ‘the Lord’ and why did he come? “Christmas is about Jesus.” That’s great, if you’re into Jesus.
So we decided in the end to let God do the talking. Let him speak for himself. We chose John 3:16
Then a group of brave souls from HBC and EFC walked behind singing with all their might. Well, at least for 3/4 of the way. By the end of it, we were all running out of puff! Still – it went really well, better than other years, and we got a lot of smiles and waves from the crowd. Something resonated with them. It’s called the meaning of Christmas.
Meanwhile back at the church another team was at work, reading Scripture, selling cold slushy’s for the kids, and generally being on hand to help anyone who need to make a phone call or go to the bathroom. Our church is position right on the corner of the main street so the parade goes right past. A great location, I have to say!
So I come back to my original question – why do we do it?
- Because in the midst of a myriad of voices screaming for our attention and money during Christmas, people need to hear from God.
- Because kids need to know Christmas is not about Santa, pixies and dwarfs; it’s about Jesus.
- Because God will hold all Christians accountable for any and every opportunity to declare his name. And this was one such opportunity.
- Because as the saying goes – “evil prevails when good people do nothing.”
It’s likely we’ll know this side of heaven if our efforts bore any fruit. But one thing I do know: it was better to be part of that parade than sitting at home doing nothing.