Vicar's Letter for Christmas 2020

December 2020

As I write this letter the news headlines are repeatedly telling me that we may not be able to have Christmas this year, and that if we do, it will be a very different one to those we have previously experienced – the hidden message being that it might not be as happy and joyful and meaningful as those previous Christmases.

Yes, I will be somewhat saddened if I can’t spend this Christmas with my whole family as I did last year -  feasting, exchanging gifts and revelling in one another’s company - but at the heart of a truly joyful Christmas is so much more than feasting, gifts and partying.

‘Partying’ reminds me that most of the weddings I was due to conduct this year were cancelled as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, but a few brave souls carried on when restrictions enabled them to do so.  Their weddings were so very different to the ones originally planned and yet each of those small weddings were some of the most joyful and meaningful I have ever conducted in twenty years of ministry. 

Why?  Because I think in being forced to do so much less, each couple was able to focus so much more on what was truly important – their love for one another – the whole reason they were getting married in the first place!

So what should we be focussing on this Christmas that we might have a truly joyful one whatever we may or may not be able to do?

The nativity plays, which we will no doubt be able to watch online this year, give us a clue.  However endearing or entertaining these plays prove to be they remind us of the truth that Jesus was born in conditions of homelessness and discomfort, with his first resting place being a makeshift cradle, none too clean, and borrowed in desperation – the Son of God, through whom the heavens and earth are made, doesn’t even have anywhere to be born.

How ironic – God comes in Jesus, born as a homeless child, so that we can have an eternal home. 

I think that if we are honest with ourselves we all carry with us a sense of not quite belonging  - a homesickness.  Most of the time this is buried, and when it does surface we find it hard to say what it is we long for.  I am convinced that it is the longing for our real home in God.  We have strayed so far from home that we have forgotten even that that is what we yearn for, and that is why Jesus comes to show us our homelessness and to invite us home with him. 

What a gift to receive at Christmas, and perhaps something we all need to remember the next time we watch a nativity play – online or live.  It’s a gift that can meet us in our deepest sense of dissatisfaction, loneliness, fearfulness, lost-ness and sadness and truly something to celebrate with joy this Christmas whatever we may or may not be allowed to do.  Happy Christmas everyone!

Yours in Christ