The Virus That Stole Christmas?
I am turning into an increasingly grumpy person! Jonathan and I had to drive to Co Durham this week to sort out an issue with a leaking roof. It’s a journey of over 5 hours so we were in the car for getting on for 11 hours. During the drive we heard a lot of news, most of which left me shouting at the radio, ‘No, no, no, NO, NO!!’ What got me so annoyed? All the news about this little virus that looks, at first glance, rather like a snowflake!
The focus of the reporting was all about Christmas. Was Christmas going to be cancelled? How could we celebrate Christmas if we couldn’t get together with our families? What was the government going to do to make sure this would be possible? I suppose I should have been pleased that the focus of Christmas in these reports was not about whether we would be able to spend money on gifts and enough food to keep us going for a month, but about how we would be able to spend time with the people that matter the most to us. But I still found myself thinking that the whole point of Christmas seemed to be absent. The whole point is that whatever happens over the few days around the 25th December, whether we’re with our families or not, Christmas will not be cancelled.
The second lockdown has been filled with events that have been cancelled – and yet they haven’t. Remembrance Sunday, we were told, would be cancelled. Yes, it was different, but lockdown didn’t stop us from remembering, from standing in silence as we recalled all those who gave – and continue to give – their lives in the service of their country. Yes, it was different, but there was something positive in the difference. There was something quite powerful about that stripped back simple service outside church, reciting the names of the dead, listening to the silence.
Christmas will not be cancelled. It might be well be different, but we will still celebrate the birth of a vulnerable baby, born to immigrant parents miles from home, in the backyard of an inn. Jesus was named Emmanuel, God with us. This is God who is just as much a part of our lives when things are going wrong as when they are going well. I’m including in this edition of The Squeaker the list of services for Christmas and I hope that’s what we can do. But whatever happens we will still celebrate Christmas.
One of my favourite carols is, ‘O Little Town of Bethlehem’ and in particular verse 3, which says,
How silently, how silently,
the wondrous gift is given!
So God imparts to human hearts
the blessings of his heaven.
No ear may hear his coming;
but in this world of sin,
where meek souls will receive him, still
the dear Christ enters in.
Still, the dear Christ enters in. That doesn’t depend on churches being open or shut, who we’re with or sharing our lunch with. The virus won’t steal Christmas.
In the midst of my grumpy shouting at the radio I did realise something important though, and that was maybe COVID-19 hasn’t all been bad news. As I was muttering about Christmas not being about eating dinner I found myself saying, ‘It doesn’t need to be 25th December for us to share time with those that we love’. For a lot of us, sharing time has been difficult if not impossible. One thing that I think we’ve really come to understand over these last few months is the importance of contact with other people. Loneliness has become a major issue for a lot of people. Maybe the different Christmas this year will help to remind us of the importance of the people in our lives, the importance of looking out for those who have no-one, the importance of looking out for those who are vulnerable? We don’t need a specific date to have a special meal with those we love and care for, we need to grab the opportunity to do that whenever we can.
May the dear Christ enter in, wherever you are, and who ever you’re with this Christmas.