It has been a rough year. We have all been affected by the way in which the arrival of the Covid virus has changed life on so many levels, sometimes even in ways we cannot quite put a finger on.
This makes it even harder to go into the darkest time of the year, when the cold and damp threatens to creep into our hearts. Normally we can counter this with lots of get-togethers: Christmas parties, school assemblies, meals out, even just cups of tea with friends or a cuddle with the grandchildren. Many look forward to the feast that is Christmas to sustain us through the darkness of winter in the same way that children look forward to the gifts under the tree.
So, what are we going to do this Christmas when we worry about whom to include in our ‘bubbles’ and whom to leave out, when we are not sure whether we should meet up with anyone if we are feeling vulnerable? Much has already been made in the press of the loneliness of many, and this loneliness is very real. It is hard sometimes to hold on to a sense of self when we are on our own for a long time. It can be difficult to keep it together when there seems to be no reason for getting up. We all need company, we all long for affection and a sense that we matter to someone.
On the other hand, I suspect we could also learn from those among us who are used to spending a lot of time on their own. Some of what we have struggled with this year, they have been managing for many years. This may not be their first Christmas on their own, and therefore they may have found a place in their heart where they can be resilient and calm in a way others can’t even imagine.
In the same way we may be able to learn from those doctors, nurses and midwives who regularly have to find a different way of marking Christmas because they are working on Christmas Day. And anyone whose family live far away will tell us that there are ways of dealing with the fact that we won’t be able to see ‘everyone’ at Christmas. We adapt. We make it work as well as we can. And we look forward to next year which will be different.
For us Christians, of course, Christmas is a time when we reflect on the birth of Jesus Christ, and how that has changed our view of the world. It is a season when we remember our trust that in Jesus God is with us always. He is the one who brings light into our lives that can shine through the darkest moments and will keep us steady. We remember Christmas as the time when the God who is Love became flesh, became real in Christ, in a tiny baby of a homeless couple in a war-torn country. And we believe that we can help to make Love real for each other in our care for our neighbour, near and far, celebrating our common humanity and working towards a fair and just world. And even if this year we will need to find new ways of marking this important time for our faith, and we can’t even sing our carols in church, our hope in the Light of the world is not diminished. We know that the eternal God who was once found in a manger is present everywhere and offers to hold us firmly in his embrace, whatever may be happening.
So, let’s celebrate the fact that ‘Love came down at Christmas’ in whichever way is possible this year, whilst keeping each other safe and sound, and hold on to those words from the Bible that,
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”
(Gospel of John 1:5)
With every blessing for Christmas and the New Year,