The people walking in darkness have seen a great light. Of those living in the land of deep darkness, a light has dawned.
Christmas is almost here and that is good news for everyone except the turkey, goose, or nut roast. We will soon be full of joy, mince pies, and chocolate... singing carols in schools... We will listen to our Christmas tunes on the radio, on Spotify, in the pubs and supermarkets, and of course in our Churches too.
But Christmas is also being celebrated in a febrile atmosphere of anxiety, new variant COVID viruses, worldwide shutdowns and travel restrictions, climate change and economic uncertainty.
What then can the Church say to people of faith and those of none?
What should our Christmas message be?
Over the last year or so you will have noticed that I have chosen to write in these letters about hope on quite a few occasions. At the moment our hope will feel to many like an uncertain or fragile thing. Hospitalisations are reducing but infection rates are still very high. Our economy is growing, and unemployment is low, but many people feel insecure in their jobs. There are supply issues, and Europe appears to be heading into the grip of a fourth wave of COVID. We all want and need a good Christmas, but what are we to do with this moment of hope when we can’t know and don’t understand how the future might look?
Let’s consider the very first Christmas... It teaches us a profound truth.
Mary held in her arms her newborn baby. For those of you who are parents or grandparents, aunts or uncles - You always remember holding a much-loved baby for the first time. A tiny and fragile little boy or girl. You didn't know what the future would be like for him or her, but in that moment with the baby in your arms, I bet you felt wonder and love and hope. That special moment was enough. It was life sustaining.
I can’t help but imagine that it must have been the same for Mary. In her arms she held the prince of peace, Emmanuel God with us, the almighty creator God, the hope of salvation for the entire world. She didn’t fully understand and nor could imagine what the future would be for him. So what did she do? Mary nursed her little boy, she kept him warm and cared for him. She did what was natural in that moment. She loved him and treasured the moment.
Of course, Mary wasn’t the only one who struggled to find a response fitting to that moment. Others also did what to them came naturally. The shepherds and kings all came with presents, lambs, gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Strange gifts for a baby, but it was the natural response for each of them. Even the angels didn’t really know what was to come but, they knew how to respond. They sang with great joy, announcing the good news... That God’s great plan to show his love to the world had begun.
This Christmas, we should do what is natural in this unique moment. We should be generous like the shepherds and three kings, giving whatever we can to enable everyone to share in the joy. Like the angels, we should be filled with great joy and sing and celebrate. Perhaps most importantly, we should be like Mary. She cared for her little boy, knowing he was fragile. She loved him.
This Christmas with the example of Mary to guide us, we should remember all the times we have been caused to be apart from families and friends... and we should treasure this Christmas as a time shared together. Just love those who matter most to you. Cherish time together, be kind and forgiving then - I suspect - you will find the light that shines in darkness.
I wish you all a very happy Christmas and a truly joyful New Year.
The Link is a monthly publication by members and staff of Morningside United Church.