Traditional Christmas celebrations complete with nativity scenes and religious carols might be too much for people used to an increasingly-secular Christmas, so Maleny Uniting Church is using the humble Christmas tree to bridge the gap between church and the wider community. Rohan Salmond reports.
Christmas time is a great opportunity to share the love and hope of Jesus with people who might not normally hear it. Maleny Uniting Church in the Sunshine Coast hinterland is about to launch their third annual Christmas tree festival, an event which encourages the public to raise money for community causes and get involved in the Christmas story.
“As a prayerful, listening church we look for opportunities to reach out with the message of Jesus to our community,” says festival organiser Murray Robertson.
“People relate to Christmas and the message of God coming into the world as a child. A Christmas tree festival is a way to do this in a manner that is not threatening but decidedly tells the Christian message that God loved the world so much.”
Nancy and Malcolm Baker have been involved with the festival since it began three years ago.
“The idea was that we opened the church to people and groups who knew we existed but probably didn’t come in the door very often,” says Nancy. “We’ve been overwhelmed by the support; it’s been a bit of an eye-opener actually.
“We haven’t found people to be uncomfortable about coming in and cooperating with us at all … last year’s beneficiaries, the hospital auxiliary committee, made sure they had two of their workers with us every time the doors were open. It was just a really lovely spirit of cooperation.”
This year all proceeds will go to Blackall Range Care Group, a local aged-care and respite care provider.
“As the years go by we are able to donate more money as more people come through the door,” says Nancy.
The Christmas tree festival is just one aspect of the community engagement Maleny Uniting undertakes at Christmas time.
“We’re involved in the community through the Maleny Street Carnival,” Nancy says. “That’s a regular occurrence where we have a stall in the middle of the town. We distribute pieces of Christmas cake and an invitation to our Christmas services printed on the Synod Christmas postcards. We also have a display in the local library and have had Christmas art in our church.”
Malcolm Baker says they want to share the spirit of Christmas with as many people as possible. “This is one way of doing it and encouraging people to actually come to a church at this time of year,” he says.