An update from our Rector on services over Christmas
There has been so much that has had to change this year already, and our celebration of Christmas will be no different. At the time of writing we are in our second lockdown which will hopefully have come to an end by early December, but who knows? And then I should imagine, the restrictions we have known for most of the year will be back, but will they be tougher or will it be possible for them to be safely loosened, at least a little, so as to allow us to celebrate Christmas in some of the ways that are familiar. Again, who knows? What I do know is that for my family as for so many others, in the village and across the country, the ‘rule of six’ will pose a huge problem at Christmas as will the current restrictions on visiting elderly and much-loved relatives in care homes.
And then there’s the Christmas services. Sadly, this year the guidelines prevent us from having a gathering around the tree in the village to watch as the lights are switched on whilst we sing familiar Christmas carols. Neither can we have our usual service of ‘Carols by Candlelight’ with music and readings to remind us of the Christmas story.
For me, saddest of all, is that we can’t share the excitement and fun of our Christingle service on Christmas Eve. We just cannot safely accommodate in accordance with the guidelines the usual numbers who gather for these services. Each are important occasions, because each draw so many of us, from across the village, to share and to celebrate together as a community, the message of Christ’s birth at Christmas.
And that gathering as a community to remember and celebrate Christmas really must not change. So, with prayers for fine weather, let me invite you all to join us at 4.00pm on Sunday 20th December on the Recreation Ground for a celebration of Christmas. There will be carols, a telling of the Christmas story, a chance to pray together for Christmas, for our families and for all of those across both country and world affected by the events of this year, and a chance too, to think about light coming into darkness as we think about the message and meaning of the Christingle.
This year we will have to ask you to bring your own Christingle, but we will put instructions on our website and Facebook page in case you’re not familiar with how to assemble it. And if you (or maybe even one of your children!) fancy coming along dressed as one of the characters from the nativity, then why not! The idea is that this will be fun, that this will be a moment of shared joy, that this will draw us all together in a community celebration of Christmas.
Because whilst so much has changed this year, the message of joy that is at the heart of Christmas will never change. The Bible reminds us that ‘Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today, and forever’.
This year has for so many been a time of stress and anxiety; of worry about health and safety; of unease and fear over job security; of mourning and tears over the loss of loved ones. But to all of us the coming of Jesus Christ at Christmas means there is help for us in our need whatever that need may be. There is rest for the weary and burdened whatever maybe causing that weariness, or however heavy the burden may seem.
The coming of Christ at Christmas means that God is in control of this confused world. He is in control and he is sovereign over both the wider world and our personal world alike and his plans and purposes are good, his sovereignty is real and his timing in everything is impeccable. As the apostle Paul has written: “when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman.” And that time had certainly come. The world needed Jesus at his birth just as the world and each one of us continue to need him today, to need the light that shines in the darkness. Where we place our faith and our trust in him, Jesus is that light and he is with us in everything, hope for today and bright hope for tomorrow.
So, this Christmas, let’s try despite all that is going on around us to celebrate with joy the One who stepped into time and space to be with us and to bring us to Himself both now and for all eternity. My hope and prayer are that every one of you will put your trust in Jesus Christ this festive season and that you will all enjoy a merry and peaceful Christmas and a very happy New Year.
Yours in His service,