I wonder how long have you been getting ready for Christmas?
I confess we’ve been steadily adding on extra supplies to the online shopping bill – since August. (Although being extra organised doesn’t always pay off – the first lot of mincemeat we had delivered expired in October). I even confess too, last month in our house Christmas jumpers went on and so did the Christmas music! By 18th November I had even ordered and paid for the Tree. It was cut on 23rd and now sits cheerfully, lights glistening, in our lounge. (Thank you Steve from Roost Farm). We all want cheering up at the moment – so why not start celebrating Christmas early!?!
Christmas this year is going to be different. In church, with attendances usually up during Advent and Christmas, all our services this month, will in effect be ‘ticketed’ – please reserve your seat in advance. If you’re a bit of a Christmas Service ‘Junkie’ too, then please be patient – we may decline requested seats for multiple services in order to allow as many as possible an opportunity to celebrate the coming of Christ at Christmas. Perhaps the biggest culture shock for us this year is that our Christmas Eve ‘Crowd Puller’ services – the Christingle, Crib and Midnight services – will all be online only – and the services that we are able to host in church – current rules mean we will be unable to sing carols in church this Christmas.
Yet carol sing we will! On Sunday 20th December at 8pm why not join in the national effort to sing Silent Night on your doorstep? Can you host a socially distanced carolling outside in your street? I daresay, weather permitting, we may well be able to sing yet some ‘socially distanced’ carols in ‘small groups’ in our church grounds. Of course, as you join us for our online and telephone services, you will be able to sing with us from your homes.
Before Christmas, however, we have Advent. The time of year when we prepare ourselves to receive Christ spiritually afresh into our hearts and lives. In a unique way, having got so many of the practical preparations already in place for Christmas, I feel better prepared and ready to celebrate Advent than I have quite possibly ever before! This year, Emmanuel Church, will host our weekly Advent Prayer, and this will also be live-streamed through our Facebook page. I invite you to join us in person or from your homes as we prepare for the coming of Christ, both at Christmas and in readiness for his second return.
I wonder too, how we will be fixed after Christmas this year?
I have a hunch we might find ourselves in another Firebreak Lockdown by 31 December – the government concerned to avoid a Christmas sales rush and New Years Eve crowds. I worry too, that many of us are currently placing so much of ‘our own hope’ into making Christmas as perfect or as near-normal that we can that if we don’t succeed at this then we will be in for big disappointments come Boxing Day this year.
The Bishop of Oxford, Steven Croft, has an interesting idea. (Try googling, “Oxford Anglican Six”). He suggests why not make Christmas our horizon as much as the Resurrection at Easter? After Christmas, life quietens down so much, the nights are still long, and come January, we can feel fairly low as a nation. To get us not just TO Christmas but to get us THROUGH Christmas AND the winter months: In the present moment we should look to find a way to develop resilience. In October Bishop Steven commended to his diocese, “Make the next six months your new horizon”. It’s a very good thought. Whilst we keep in mind and look forward to celebrating Christmas with as many of the usual trimmings that we can, why not reflect further on O Little Town of Bethlehem’s “Everlasting Light” and get our hearts and minds focussed on the lengthening of the days, the resurrection of Jesus, and the season of new life, new hope and eternal joy too?
Finally, I wonder what will be your focus on Christmas Night?
Yet in the dark streets shineth
The Everlasting Light;
The hopes and fears of all the years,
Are met in thee tonight
It does us well to remember that Christ the Light of the World will bring us through these dark days and nights of Covid. That because of the Christ Child we have hope for a life without Covid, and a life awaiting us of ‘God’s eternal hope, peace and joy’. Praise God that the vaccines developed are bringing us one step closer to this.
God bless you this Christmas as we celebrate that Jesus is the Light of the World.
Happy Christmas. Adam
Rev Adam Pawley