This must be one of the strangest, and for many the saddest, Christmas we have experienced. As I write this, on Christmas Eve morning, I listen to Christmas Carols with such a heavy heart.
I am sorry that my Christmas Eve message to you is not one of happiness and sparkles. But to write that would be false for me, and I should think it would ring false to you as you read it. Yesterday evening and this morning I have had to make some very tough decisions on our Christmas services, and those in the coming days, to ensure we keep everyone safe. I am very grateful for the support of my clergy colleagues and the churchwardens in doing this.
Usually Christmas is a time of frenetic but largely happy and joyful activity. Even for those who aren’t great fans of the season, the excitement of children can put a smile on faces.
Yet this year, all is subdued for the vast majority in this country. Even if we are not yet under strict measures, we either will be in less than 48 hours time, or we have friends or family who are already in lockdown. And so many people will be unable to spend Christmas with their loved ones. Christmas can be the loneliest time of year for those already alone. This year, many more of us will gain a very personal insight into the experience of those who are alone, especially through bereavement.
For this year has been a bereavement for us all. We have lost so much that is familiar, on which we relied for our daily wellbeing. Yes, we have found new things, and ways of coping. That is after all what people generally do! But that in no way lessens the grief and lament in our hearts.
I wrote on Monday that the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not – cannot! – overcome it. In the midst of grief, lament, bereavement and midwinter, we may find ourselves personally and collectively in a place of darkness.
But take hope. If nothing else, the feast of Christmas teaches us that even in the darkest night, there is still a light.
A Star shines in the heavens to show us the way to where the Christ-child appears. And the place where He comes is within our hearts. The Star above mirrors the divine Light within each one of us.
For in our loneliness we are not alone. The Light is within us, even if right now it feels like the tiniest flicker.
May we tend and nurture that Light, so that it may blaze into Life again this Christmas. And may we bring Light and Hope to others.
May God bless you this Christmas, and may you know the comfort and joy of the Christ-child in your hearts.