Over the past 18 months, the Coronavirus pandemic has governed much of our lives.......
Over the past 18 months, the Coronavirus pandemic has governed much of our lives and, hopefully, we will have some normality restored this year. But if we are not careful it will be easy to be caught up in the frenzy of it all and arrive at Christmas Day exhausted and with little energy left to reflect on the true meaning of the season. Sometimes we can also get caught up in the chocolate box image of the nativity scene, the one portrayed on our Christmas cards, which presents a cosy image of all being well. Yet if we look back at that stable, and take away the familiar cosiness, we see the reality of the situation.
Just as we know that the Christmas season today can be a difficult time for so many people. Mary and Joseph were a homeless couple who were sheltering in dire circumstances amongst the animals and all that messiness, and struggling to find somewhere to bring their baby into the world. Yet in that baby we see God’s presence, His love and hope right there in that mess and muddle of a stable, and amidst the mess and muddle of the political turmoil of the time. He can see the mess and muddle of our ordinary lives today and in our, somewhat lesser, political turmoil. In that stable and in the manger, the shepherds who were considered outsiders found God’s love and hope. Likewise, let us look forward to the coming year because in it and in all we do personally, as a church and as a community, we can find God’s love and His hope in whatever lies before us.
Those of you who are vigilant will notice that I haven’t mentioned the Three Wise Men. They were foreigners coming from far away to search for a king and were welcomed without question. They have become such a colourful part of the Christmas story that it is a common misconception they visited Jesus at the stable on the night of His birth. In fact, they came days, months, or possibly even years later. That is why Matthew 2:11 says the wise men visited and worshipped Jesus in a house, not at the stable. (Mary and Joseph wouldn’t have stayed in the manger for long as they had been on their way to Joseph’s birthplace of Bethlehem, for the Roman census). You might be thinking “but we’ve had Christmas so why are we still with these Men, these Magi, in January, with the feast of the Epiphany – the revelation of God’s Salvation in Christ to all humanity. These regal men packed provisions for a journey with no fixed time and travelled at night to follow the star. No angel’s voice, no message from a prophet, no burning bush. Just a star that gets their attention. To these wellinformed astronomers, the single star seems out of place and shines more brightly than others. If we were given a clue to some great happening, would we really be able to just take off on a journey of exploration and could we really be bothered with the great upheaval and valuable time spent in pursuing it? Who knows, perhaps you are already on a similar journey in some way.
Although we might not have a star in the sky to guide us, we do have Jesus to help us to make a difference to those we come into contact with. We may find it a long, arduous journey. Some of us may get side-tracked and wander off on a by-road before stumbling back onto the main track which, after all, is straight and narrow. Some of us may walk it only at Christmas time; but better than not at all. And some of us may walk it quietly, alone, without other companions. All – just trying to make a difference along the way.
So, as we shut the door of 2021 and start on the journey which is the “Year of Our Lord 2022”, I would like to wish everyone a HAPPY CHRISTMAS AND NEW YEAR with good and fruitful journeys of discovery over the next twelve months.
Carol Neilson LLM