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Sacristy Door: Advent Doors 2018

Written by Emily Essex, posted on Monday, December 17, 2018

At Christmastime, the Sacristy becomes the centre of the Cathedral's universe. It's effectively the office for our vergers: the place where they plan for and prepare for services; where clergy are dressed in robes, kitted out with microphones, and handed the props for the service to come. It is the base of operations throughout our many services and concerts, and it is one other thing too: busy.

Interior of the SacristyWith eight days left until Christmas we have five remaining Carol Services and Concerts, a Crib Service, a special Midnight Choral Eucharist, and all this while our regular Cathedral services tick along as usual. It’s a hectic time of year, and all our Canons, staff, and volunteers are busy trying to make sure that everything runs the best it can.

Why? Well perhaps because, despite my bias, we still remember that the Sacristy is not actually the centre of the universe: that would be the baby Jesus, Christ the King, the one whose coming we are celebrating throughout this season.

The point of all our preparations, all our planning and practising and busyness, is the worship of our God who ‘became flesh and lived among us’. We follow in the footsteps of the shepherds who abandoned their flocks at the announcement of the angels, of the Magi who travelled so far after the ‘star of wonder’ they saw in the sky. We come to Jesus, babe in the stable and God reigning on high, to worship and adore him.

All the preparations that take place in the Sacristy are to that end. And we have our own versions of Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh.

This coming weekend will be our services of Nine Lessons and Carols, where all our Canons will be robed in gold copes: long, shining, embroidered cloaks that tell of the joy and celebration of Christmas.

Late on the evening of 24 December we will gather again for our Midnight Choral Eucharist: the first celebration of Christmas Day itself, and we will break out the thurible: that marvellous gold censer, to burn incense and remember again the presence of God in our midst.

And as for myrrh, that perfume suggesting burial rites and the death on a cross which we know is coming, well that’s a little harder to find in your average Sacristy. But it’s an important reminder: the reminder of what this baby will grow up to do for us, of who this tiny child truly is. Christmas is made meaningful in the light of what comes later. And as we rejoice at the coming of God in Christ, we celebrate this whole story.

On Christmas Day, as every time we celebrate the Eucharist, we remember that Christ died for us and was raised to life again. We recall the story of our salvation which is unfolding even now, and we give thanks to God that we are not abandoned.

And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. (John 1.14)