Let’s hope we can celebrate Christmas more openly and at ease this year than last! Looking back over the past 18 months or so it is hard to believe how much we’ve had to put up with and how we’ve changed our behaviour in order to stay safe. I’m amazed how we have adapted our lives. Who would have thought that wearing masks in crowded places would become second nature? That a nationwide vaccination programme would have been so successfully developed? And that we’d all get used to administering lateral flow tests ourselves?
We have learned to manage public worship as safely as possible. We have celebrated funerals, weddings and family events in new and creative ways, though at some cost along the way. We have had to concentrate on the essentials. We have put ourselves out to look after ourselves and others with practical loving-kindness. Although we lost so much, it seems to me we have gained much as well. Perhaps, you could say, we put the heart back into human society.
Do you remember how last year’s Christmas celebrations were much more muted than usual? People commented on how much they actually enjoyed the simplicity of pared-down celebrations and an albeit enforced break with old routines. We had to re-think. We had to ask what really counted. We had to improvise – because we couldn’t sing in church, we went outside to sing our carols. Strangely enough, we took Christmas back to where it first began – not shut inside holy places, however beautiful, but outside in the world God so loved.
Mary and Joseph also had to improvise as they found a place for their son to be born. The heart of Christmas was born in the mucky manger of Bethlehem: even there, surely, their hearts sang for joy. The beating heart of Christmas was and is the Babe of Bethlehem, born for us.
love all lovely, Love divine;
love was born at Christmas,
stars and angels gave the sign. (Christina Rossetti)
I wonder what will make our hearts sing this Christmas.
The Venerable Robert Jones
The Archdeacon of Worcester