In the lead up to Christmas and the annual Midnight Mass and other services in Beccles churches it is only fair to ask- why is it people feel the need to attend these services before the big day?
In the build up to Christmas people often make the usual grumble about it being overly commercialised or losing focus on the true message. However this is also contradicted by the fact a lot of church services of various denominations are popular around Christmas time. It is interesting because a lot of the people who attend these services who may not necessarily define themselves as “religious” or “spiritual”.
A cynic might argue that in effect it turns the church experience into something to add to the checklist- A kind of spiritual tonic to guard against any accusations of self absorption or vanity as you can say you “went to the service” and therefore have done your religious duties for the year.
However I don’t think that’s fair- yes it may be true that this particular feeling is strong at this time of year but is this necessarily a bad thing? It is a chance for churches to reach out to people who may not necessarily attend all the time and there is nothing wrong with going to a spiritual service and considering your own position with regards to what you believe and what you value in life.
Also from my personal point of view Beccles has some truly beautiful churches. When you attend a service there it feels incredible and you can see why people would be drawn to it. Does this make me some kind of spiritual tourist? Possibly. However the warmth and the welcome you receive as part of these services are wonderful and there is that genuine sense of what Christmas is supposed to be about- people coming together and sharing the celebration together.
Yes if you are going to be pedantic there were pagan celebrations at this time before Christianity was established and yes a lot of the traditions we associate with a Christian holiday actually predate the Romans and other civilisations that adopted that religion.
Again I feel this misses the point as well- If you want to attend a church service in my experience the people who run these services are incredibly decent people who want to include you. Regardless of what you believe I think that is a positive thing that people should remember throughout the year.