Christmas past and present 

When our children were young our family lived in Taradale, a small satellite suburb of Napier. One Christmas our church ran The Sights and Sounds of Christmas – an interactive experience involving skits, storytelling, cookies, carols and take-home bags with activities and more cookies.

It was great fun to be part of. Schools were delighted as they sent busloads of children who then returned with their families for the evening performances. The love which is at the centre of the Christmas story was present in the actions and attitude of all the volunteers. That same love was the motivation in running the event in a slightly different format for several years in a row. People enjoyed being part of a team that just wanted to share their joy in knowing Jesus, whose birth we celebrated.

In that period, there was a pool of “the young retired” who had time and energy to put into such activities. Fast forward 20 plus years and the world has changed. So much so that such large-scale undertakings are no longer feasible. Work demands have increased, retirement age put back, the need to earn is pressing, grandparents caregiving roles increased…

Hence the Nativity Sheep Trail. Introduced to Te Awamutu in 2020 and put on pause because of Covid restrictions in 2021, the Sheep Trail returns for 2022. Knitting sheep might not be your idea of Christmas fun but for many of the Knit and Natter Group who meet at St John’s Parish lounge each Monday, it was a great challenge. When church members joined in – Voila! – 30 sheep were created.

As you have been doing your Christmas shopping lately have you noticed a knitted sheep peeping out from behind the displays?

Across Te Awamutu, retailers have happily received a sheep, carefully chosen a name, labelled and popped their sheep somewhere within their premises. Your task is to discover it and record its name on the provided form. Then set off to find the others. There is fun to be had in the discovery, goodwill from all the involved retailers, a prize draw at the end along with carols, celebration and supper. All at no cost except what you’d like to offer.

In the news lately there have been dire warnings about the coming recession and the need to be thrifty. We also constantly hear of the need to use less of the planet’s resources, to recycle or upcycle and to buy local and ethically. Last week Black Friday sales were splashing across our media, encouraging careless spending and “buy now, pay later offers”. With such contrasting messages coming at us, what can we do?

In the past, when thrift was, of necessity, a way of life, churches provided simple opportunities throughout the year and especially leading up to Christmas to gather, to have fun and to rejoice in the promise of love and hope that Jesus’ birth brings. The sheep nativity trail is designed to offer exactly that. A message of hope and love, at no cost but in a way that is benefits all involved. Join the hunt.

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