I often begin December ponderings with ‘What a difference a year makes’ – but these days, it seems more fitting to say ‘What a difference a week makes…’
Last month I was telling you of the forthcoming wedding of my daughter Maria and her fiancé, Alex on 28th November. And it was about a week later that Lockdown 2 began – and the wedding well and truly postponed and a young couple disappointed – one among many, and we pray for them as they take time to calm and rethink new dates and new plans …
Compared to some stories we hear, certainly my family can give thanks that we are all safe and well, and that we can encourage the disappointed couple to look ahead to another day when they will be able to exchange their vows and celebrate their love through Holy Matrimony – and even get to share it with a wider circle of family and friends.
I think we can all say that this year of Covid-19 has brought changes and trials and tribulations of one sort of another – but also tucked away we might have caught glimpses of new patterns of viewing the world and our lives.
As we spend more time within our family community, revert back to more simpler ways of living, and as we notice our local natural surroundings and God’s creation more vividly, we might begin to sense something beneath the surface that is speaking to us of a constant and consistent order of things that we have lost sight of along the way of busyness and distractedness that we have tended to get sucked into to as we live to work rather than work to live.
So where do the Advent and Christmas seasons fit into all of this – and what, indeed, of the New Year of 2021 to come?
Well, right now, we are here – in the church season of Advent which began on Sunday 29th November – a time where we try to pause before the Christmas rush (as rushed as it can be in a semi-lockdown situation) – and become mindful of wider implications of this season for the world in all its confusion and chaos and say a little prayer for healing, hope, peace and good will to all….
During Advent, just as lockdown gave us permission to slow down, we have permission to enter into a time of waiting – of preparing for so much more than the usual party-time, present-laden, feast-filled Christmas.
Advent is also what is known as a ‘penitential season’ – encouraging us to gently reflect on things we can celebrate but also be sorry for and to hand them up for healing.
This will also be a space to acknowledge sadness – but with an anticipation of healing and comfort and strength and of hope for brighter days to come, as the coming of the light of the world draws closer.
We need this space – this pause-time because amidst the positive things that have emerged from this year, we also acknowledge that for some who have been affected by economic implications and uncertainty – by illness and loss of loved ones – by heightened isolation and loneliness, this Christmas ‘ho, ho, ho’ time will be a time of dread and disappointment.
But it doesn’t have to be in a deeper sense. This might be just the space we need to let go of the outside influences, and go inwards and prepare our hearts so that we might become open to the wonder of what it is that we are actually waiting for – the coming of Jesus Christ – and if that doesn’t make sense to you, I invite you to think of it in your own spiritual way as ‘the coming of hope, of love, of peace, of joy – because for the Christian faith – Jesus represents all of those wonderful things…
All those comforting and uplifting Christmas-card words – hope, rejoicing, love, compassion, unity, faith, joy, peace – are all possible because we are waiting for that time when we can remember and relive the moment when new light shone into a darkened world.
And it was a dark time when Jesus was born in that stable. There was political, social and economic unrest and conflict – the pandemic of the day was not so much physical as spiritual – corrupt powers that be preying on the vulnerable and building up their own power-houses and material wealth.
But this is a time – then and now – when out of the darkness, a new way of being is going to rise up – a way of truth, caring and sharing, of mercy and generosity and unity.
We are invited to believe in the light – to quietly wait, hope and trust that we can all receive that special child whose ‘government will be on his shoulders and who will be called ‘Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God…Prince of Peace…’
There is a list of the Advent/Christmas services in the magazine – booking will be essential due to restricted space – but we will also be livestreaming on St Beale’s Facebook page.
I hope that in one form or another you might be able to join us at some point to pause and remember and be filled with the warm light of the hopeful story that we are invited to step into – the true story of Christmas. Please do come and join us if you are able, it would be lovely to see you….
In the meantime, from us all at St Peter’s, we hope and pray that your Advent journey be meaningful, and your Christmas one of peace, hope and love…
With every Blessing, Jacqueline
Read more clergy letters.