I am tempted to misquote Mr Spock in Star Trek: “It’s Christmas, Jim, but not as we know it!”
Most of this year has been unpredictable and abnormal. The next few weeks are going to be no different. Families are facing awkward conversations about who is going to be in whose ‘Christmas 3-household bubble’; some may be wondering if they will be invited into anyone else’s bubble or have to face Christmas seeing no one; too many will mourning loved ones, killed by a virus we had barely heard of this time last year; front-line care workers will barely notice that life is any different for those few days as they continue to deal with trauma and painful, life and death decisions; and, to the best of my knowledge, that deadly virus isn’t planning on spending the ‘festive period’ on a deserted island in the mid-Atlantic to give us all a brief respite from hand washing, social distancing and staying at home. The thought of Christmas services without singing familiar carols fills most of us – even those of us who can’t sing – with a feeling of loss. Now, the final straw: people are discouraged from playing board games! Bah humbug!
Yet, despite it not being a normal Christmas, the church will still proclaim good news: Hope is Born – Thank God. Why?
Even in the bleakest of mid-winters, there is hope. There is the hope of vaccines rolling out in early 2021 to protect all of us. There is a sense of community – we are all in this together and, if we work together, we can come out of this pandemic wiser and more committed to recognising that humanity works best when we see one another not as rivals but as part of one human ‘bubble’ which has to work together, not least to help save the only home we all share, our planet.
There is the discovery of new ways of connecting with one another and, whilst I may groan at yet another ‘virtual’ meeting at least it will enable to connect at Christmas with family and friends I would otherwise be unable to see.
But finally, and most importantly, there is the recognition that the Christian Church decided, wisely, to celebrate the birth of Jesus when the world – at least in the northern hemisphere – seemed harshest and hardest. People, long before Jesus was born, recognised the need for a celebration in the depths of winter and the early Church realised this would be the perfect time to celebrate the coming of the Saviour of the World. When the days are shortest, we are reminded that the eternal God is our refuge. When daylight is in short supply, we are reminded the Light of the World has come. When God seems silent, we are reminded that the Word became flesh; and when isolation seems never ending, we are reminded that ‘love came down at Christmas’.
It may not be Christmas as we know it. But it is Christmas. God is with us. Hope is born. Thank God.
Nicola and our family join me in sending you greetings this Christmas and wishing you hope, peace and love.
With love and prayers