“O Come all ye faithful…” The call to come and acknowledge and worship God echoes through the centuries, the millennia. God has come to be with us, and invites us into intimate relationship with Him, even as His Spirit comes to dwell within our hearts.
Christmas is a time for gathering, for celebration, for gifts, and for saying thank you. This year, like last year, feels a little strange for most of us. We are permitted to gather, but there is a cloud over us, a deep concern over spreading this virus. If I get it, I may be okay, but what about my neighbour? What about old Mr and Mrs Jones? Will they be okay?
This year, I find myself reflecting in a very personal way on how Christmas must feel for those who are unable to gather and celebrate as they might wish. As you know, I’ve had pneumonia, and so I’m effectively shielding for the next couple of weeks whilst I recover. This means I’m not taking any Christmas services – and it has meant for me that there is an aching absence at the heart of Christmas. I freely admit that in years past I have often muttered somewhat grumpily about the number of Christmas services across the benefice – but this year I realise how much I love it, because I miss it so much.
I say this only because this realisation and reflection has helped me to think about Christmas in a fresh way. I’ve become so used to one thing, that the absence of it is a shock.
But in that absence there is a new presence. A quieter, but no less powerful, sense that God is here. Jesus was indeed born in the chaos and mess and noise of a busy and very full home, where there wasn’t a spare inch of space – hence he was laid in the animal feeding trough to keep him safe.
Yet God is also in the quiet corners, the lonely places, and the tiny voice in the silence of a quiet frosty night. The moon shines bright, the only sound is the ice crackling gently on the leaves and grass as it settles. It’s not the warm glow of candles in the church, nor the singing of carols, nor the mulled wine and noisy gathering of friends. But up in the sky, a star shines bright, and it calls us as surely as it did the shepherds and the wise men.
Come let us adore him, Christ the Lord!
Wishing you all a very happy Christmas and a blessed new year.