Messy Carols Unite Religions

On December 5, The Anglican Parish of Belmont North/Redhead will celebrate the joy of Christmas with new Australian refugees.

Following on from the success of the event in 2014, as well as their ongoing Welcome picnics, the Redhead church have invited Muslim refugees from Afghanistan to celebrate Christmas through song and community.

The event will focus on the joy that is Christmas with a jumping castle, pony rides, a petting zoo, Christmas crafts and a family BBQ. Some of our Muslim friends will also provide face painting for the children.

As evening comes, candles will be lit in the grounds of the church and Christmas Carols will commence.

Emmanuel at Messy Carols

Last year, as an extension of our Picnic program we decided to ask our newer Australians to come to Messy Carols in the grounds of Redhead Church. Over the previous years we had brought many of our refugee friends to Webb Park at Redhead for a welcome BBQ, games and a walk and splash at the beach.

So we took the leap of faith and asked our new Muslim friends if they would like to come to Messy Carols at our church. Being conscious of all the feelings and thoughts that they might be having, I said it would be in the grounds of and not inside the church. We would have a jumping castle, baby animals to pat, Christmas crafts, and Christmas songs that we call carols and a BBQ with Halal sausages. I told them that lots of families from the Redhead community would come with their children, have fun, sit on rugs and sing songs about Christmas and the Christmas story of the Baby Jesus would be told.

We organised three buses from Mercy Community Services to pick up the families. Many husbands beforehand said they would not come, but their wives and children would come on the bus. So an ever growing and changing list was started and even on the day, husbands changed their minds and drove their families using their GPSs to Redhead church. As we stopped to pick up people on our list, other families were there also waiting to come that we had not asked, filling up the places that were left when husbands decided at the last minute to drive their wives. As we drove from home to home, I thought God knows who he wants to come, just go with the flow.

So it was with great excitement that our people welcomed the buses and cars filled with our new Muslim friends, children and babies who had been the recipients of our baby bundles at birth. The women and children wore their most beautiful multi-coloured clothes and they just moved into the growing crowd of Belmont North/Redhead families. So many in our community spoke to and welcomed them showing the true heart of our Australian community at the grassroots.

All the children and parents, regardless of creed, culture and colour lined up to ride the ponies and pat the baby animals. Tiny hands held baby rabbits with great gentleness and awe, others so tightly, almost crushed with love. Some waited in line for a long time to ride the ponies and could not get on as fear held them back at first, but by the end of the night all children had ridden a pony and held a baby animal. All children enjoyed the jumping castle, wore their painted faces with pride and held their newly made crafts possessively. Excitement and joy was evident on faces of every age.

The feeling of Emmanuel (God with us) was tangible as we all sat on our rugs, ate our BBQ cooked by the men from the Redhead Men’s Shed, glow candles lighting up the night, the Dudley School Ukele Group performed and the Christmas story was told and acted by the Parish Youth group. I watched with tears as our Muslim friends listened and watched intently. You see they know the story but have never watched it performed before.

The Youth Group then began to sing Christmas carols leading those present with glow candles held high. Two of my Muslim students grabbed my arm asking to go up and sing with the Youth Group too. I knew they did not know the songs and could not read but they were so keen. They gathered a friend along the way and to our great joy and surprise ran up the steps onto the deck and hummed and sang in front of us all with great enthusiasm.

Emmanuel Emmanuel! For all who came this was such a special and significant moment of what Christmas is truly about – Christ with us regardless of creed, colour or culture.

There would have been few eyes that did not shed tears of joy and were so glad to be there to witness such a moment in our community life.

Many of our Muslim friends had been inside the church to have tea and cake and seemed so comfortable and happy to be there and welcome. Santa came next with a bag of candy canes and a “Ho Ho Ho” and little eyes grew bigger at the sight of a man in a red suit with a jolly face.

Simple candy canes visibly expressed a gift that we all felt just by being present with Emmanuel, walking and talking, listening and welcoming all with the same love and gift of peace that only He can bring.

All good things must come to an end, the buses were ready to go and tired but happy families made their way home. The Redhead/Belmont North community buzzed about that night for weeks and the Muslim families caught a glimpse of Emmanuel that they too talked about.

So this year on December 5 at Redhead Church, we will again share Emmanuel with our newer Australians. Some of our Muslim friends will do the face painting this year. We will have a jumping castle, pony rides, petting zoo, Christmas crafts, a family BBQ and the Dudley School Ukele Band will perform. The Christmas Story will be told and Carols sung.

If you have the chance, ask some of the Muslim people you see regularly in your community to come to your celebrations. You too will be blessed and feel afresh the peace that Emmanuel brings when we open our hearts to all God’s people.