In his Christmas message for the community, Archbishop Peter A Comensoli reminds us that despite the weight of the global pandemic, the Child Jesus was born in a time just like this, and is in fact, born for such a time as this. 'He comes to us always in our need and our reality. Jesus is Christmas: then – now – always.'
Christmas celebrations in the city of Bethlehem are likely to be very quiet this year.
Under the weight of a global pandemic, and the ongoing troubles in the Middle East, this special destination for thousands of pilgrims and tourists will resemble something more akin to that familiar Carol, ‘O little town of Bethlehem… how still we see thee lie...’
Perhaps it was a similar stillness that met the Holy Family more than 2000 years ago, as they sought a place of safety to welcome the birth of their child.
Doors had been shut to them, amidst their own time of worrying restrictions. How familiar is this aspect of the nativity story to our own lives this year?
Jesus was born in such a time as this, and in fact, is born for such a time as this. He comes to us always in our need and our reality.
There has been much said about what a ‘COVID Christmas’ will be like, but is that the question we need to be asking? This year has challenged us in ways that have been unimaginable, it has turned our levels of comfort and security on their head.
And whilst we’ve sought creative ways to engage in our worship and our connections, it’s never been about reinventing something.
Christmas too is not of our own making. The tinsel and gifts, food and holidays certainly play their part in how we acknowledge the festivity of the season, but they’re not Christmas.
Jesus is Christmas: then – now – always.
Whether it is into a peaceful landscape, or a war torn one; a time of uncertainty and isolation, or one of abundant friendship and family; whether it is in poverty or in plenty – the question we should ask is what is the kind of Christmas we want to live?
Isn’t it one that holds close the promise of life and hope that the birth of Jesus gives us? And in that very gift, is not our calling to bring this life and hope to the world?
Jesus is the gift beyond all gifts, which we receive; and He is the gift we can always give.
Which brings me back to the next part of the Carol:
"Yet in thy dark streets shineth, the everlasting light.
The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight"
When you gather this Christmas, in whatever way that is, don’t labour on the darkness and of this year - recall the wonder of that birth and the light by which we can see ahead.
May you, your families, loved ones, your friends and neighbours be filled with the everlasting light of life and hope this year.
Jesus is Christmas.