Few people know about the season of Christmas — Christmastide — outside of the Church. Contrary to popular belief, Christmas is not just celebrated on 25 December.
For many, Christmas culminates a long lead-up of frantic preparation and chaotic materialism. Even for churchgoers, Christmas Day can sometimes be a finishing line to hurry across before finally getting a well-earned rest during the New Year.
It’s no surprise then that Christmastide has fallen out of focus for the wider world, other than perhaps the Twelve Days of Christmas being summed up in a cumulative carol with seven swans a-swimming, five gold rings and a partridge in a pear tree.
Regardless of how we approach Christmas Day, the tensions and heavy expectations of a commercial Christmas culture can be exhausting.
While our attention is turned to the second coming of Christ during Advent in the Church, we are invited into deeper relationship with Jesus between Christmas Day on 25 December and the eve of the Feast of the Epiphany on 5 January, also called Twelfth Night (when Christmas decorations are traditionally taken down). Traditionally, these 12 days were the major holiday period of the year, observed since the Council of Tours proclaimed Christmastide the time for joyful feasting after the Advent fast in 567CE.
For the second consecutive year, Holy Hermits Online (HHO) has banded together to create a Christmastide subscription. This year we are offering the Animals of HHO Christmastide Subscription. Last year, one of our faithful members, Bob, surprised the anglican focus editor, Michelle, with the gift of our first subscription:
“I found it nourishing and encouraging after such a busy period and was delighted with the gift. It made Christmastide feel more real,” Michelle said.
Now we have established a successful Companion Animal Ministry at HHO it made sense that the focus this year would be our community’s animals. Those who subscribe will receive content composed, compiled and lovingly curated by our members.
Animals are a part of our DNA at HHO, and many of our people bring their animals with them to worship, and other gatherings, on Zoom. They have been for us the perfect icebreaker, as we often focus on the creatures that companion us. The way that they unlock our relationships with God and one another is remarkable. We take our call to care-take creation, one of the five Marks of Mission, very seriously at HHO.
“To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation, and sustain and renew the life of the earth.”
This subscription is the gift that keeps on giving. As well as being a meaningful present for many, 50 per cent of the funds raised will go towards supporting an animal charity. The other half will support HHO, so we can continue the work of the Companion Animal Ministry in 2024.
The soft cost of $15 AUD can also be offered as a donation for those who may like to pay it forward, so that a subscription can be gifted to one of the guest teachers who visited HHO in 2023 or to someone who can’t afford the subscription for themselves.
Giving direction and focus for the whole 12 days, which can get missed in the post commercial-Christmas-panic, the subscription offers opportunity for learning more about animal care and welfare and many a laugh at the antics of the HHO animals, as well insight into how they enrich our faith lives.
Receivers will enjoy a variety of offerings delivered daily to their Inbox, including:
- A letter written from one of the HHO animals, with the help of their humans.
- A biography of a HHO companion animal, including a story about how they celebrate with their humans at Christmastide.
- Some resources from our growing Companion Animal Ministry.
- A prayer for animals in need.
- Recommended reading for animal welfare or awareness.
- Animal-related songs, blogs, poems, books and art that have been curated or created by HHO members.
Lay leadership and empowering vocations are a key focus of Holy Hermits Online and our Companion Animal Ministry has seen members flourishing as they bring their spiritual gifts to the projects we are undertaking in this space. We hope to extend care to the animals of our wider Diocese and have created two downloadable liturgies — Blessing of New Animals and Memorial Prayers for Mourning Animals. We hope to create more liturgies in 2024 to resource our brothers and sisters around the Communion. We will also expand our already ample resource guide that has links to animal information sites, books, poems and prayers on the ministries page of our website.
Members of our Diocesan community, as well as those beyond, are always welcome to join us in this collaborative space. Our next Companion Animal Ministry workshop is on 14 January and will focus on how we can outreach to the animal care industry, where veterinarian staff often suffer mental health crises due to compassion fatigue.
We ask for your prayers and support for our Christmastide project and hope that you will invest in the Christmas gift that keeps on giving this year!
Editor’s note: For a Christmastide subscription for yourself or as a gift for others, please register on the Holy Hermits Online website by Tuesday 12 December 2023. Subscriptions cost $15 AUD.