The Queen coined the expression first, many years ago, but we see out 2020 with a
sigh of relief of a colossal ‘annus horribilis’. It has been a year that has bought out
our human capacity for contrasts. It is said that governments like war and pandemics,
for both provide the opportunity to control populations as never before. This is
certainly true of North Korea where the perpetual imaginary threat of war with the
USA kept the population under extreme control, and now it seems for us all,
resisting the pandemic as asked. As I write this in early November we all have
no idea what will happen after this month of lockdown. Christmas won’t be the
same as normal. Perhaps we might reconsider the value of what had become ’normal’.
I often wondered why populations went along with these restrictions down history, or let it happen to them. But it is the level of constant misinformation (with a lack of pertinent information) and fear mongering that goes part way to explain it. But also there is a significant part of the population that like to play the policeman of those around them, always on the look out for those who seem to be infringing the rules.
And this past year there have been so many rules; in our area the pandemic has barely struck, but with no ability for insight ourselves, we have to go along with general rules. Next year in 2021 there will be issues of vaccination to consider but the same will apply. How are we going to respond to them in the second year of pandemic? Will it be grudgingly or with a renewed sense of hope and prayer for its cessation? Partly, this depends on how we go into Christmas and the New Year for Christmas will come however we celebrate it!
The origin of Christmas is that it was set at a time when, imperceptibly, the days began slowly to lengthen, and the darkness of Winter began to be dismissed. Down here in the South of England there is little difference in day length but in Central Scotland and above the difference is huge. In Winter daylight starts at 9am and goes at 3pm. In summer it doesn’t actually get truly black at night. You can still play sport outside at 10.30pm at night! Contrasts amplify the longing for the better.
Into this darkest time Christians began to celebrate the Birth of Christ, and hope for the World. In the events that the first Christmas celebrates, we see the God who comes to share with us what it is like to be a human. And he does it not as a rich celebrity, aloof, uncaring or just ignorant of the poor and needy, but as a child in a poor backwater of the Roman Empire, as part of a family compelled to register in a country under occupying forces. In Jesus we see a God who bothered with us.
It didn’t mean that the world was suddenly perfect, but it was a glimpse of a new
better Kingdom to come – ‘the now and not yet’ – and rejoice in hope for what is
to come. Whether rich or poor, hungry or filled, God offers us a different approach
to our culture by offering himself. A God who cares and loves is the God Christians
proclaim – not a God of materialists, but of profound love; not a rampaging,
demanding God, but open and vulnerable. If God bothered that much, then that
needs a response. Whether in our services across the parish (real or virtual) and
at All Saints’, or in the privacy of your home, remember and thank the God who
bothered. And for the New Year in sore need of a light in a dark world, remember
to bother too. The best is to come.
So, given we can meet families at this important festival time, I pray it will be to simplify and declutter this materialistic time, and value the contact and the true meaning of the season. Perhaps the virus has caused us to rethink what is actually more important than the fripperies of our society. Others ‘presence’ is better than ‘presents’. Keep it simple this Christmas!
Yours in Christ with his blessings at Christmas and for a better 2021,
Christmas Week Services (See Home page)
We plan to have a 9 Lessons and Carol Service with recorded (and hopefully live Choir) singing on Sunday 20th December at 5pm, and on Christmas Eve a Crib Service at 4pm (which may double up if it is oversubscribed to a 5pm service too). Equally if the Midnight Mass is oversubscribed, we may have an earlier 9.30pm service! We expect our Christmas Day services will be unaffected. Sadly, Christingle and a sung Carol Service will have to wait until next year. Our Toy Service on Sunday 6 December will be money donations only too.
To book a place nearer the time (Carol, Crib or Midnight) please email the Church Office at firstname.lastname@example.org to secure a place stating the names of folk and a contact phone number. Please book nearer the time, (ie in December please) but not too late to avoid disappointment. We hope to be able to stream some services too on Facebook on ‘All Saints Parish Church Headley’ pages.
Of course, all the services depend entirely on Government restrictions, which our church leadership seems to meekly agree to! Please pray we have a freedom this Christmas by staying safe and being responsible in public in December as we approach Christmas week. Thank you.
Rev Andrew & The PCC