A week or so ago, I was chatting with someone with whom I reflect on ministry from time to time. We were discussing the challenges that we’re likely to face this Christmas. After a pause he asked me “OK so if you strip everything back, what really needs to be done at Christmas?”
I thought about it for a moment or two and said “Announce the Incarnation!” “Well”, he said, “What you need to do is to think about how you and your congregations can do that to the best of your abilities.”
So I thought, how do we usually do that? We prepare to do it throughout Advent as we remember successively week by week The Patriarchs (and Matriarchs), The Prophets, John the Baptist and The Virgin Mary as we light our Advent Candles. We hold Advent study groups so that we can think more deeply about some particular aspect of our faith. We have a collection for the Food Bank.
As we get to the end of Advent, we decorate our Church buildings with flowers, greenery, Christmas tree etc. and then set up our cribs. We sing advent hymns and Christmas Carols and we have Carol Services and join in services held jointly with the other denominations. Then on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day we have joyous celebrations of the Incarnation itself and usually welcome a fair number of visitors to our services.
We do all these things and we celebrate in our homes with food and other good things.
The question is, “how many of those things can we do this year?” The answer my sisters and brothers is “most of them”. The principle exception is the singing, but as those of you have been able to celebrate the Eucharist with us over the past four months know, we’ve replaced hymns by humns and our organists have been wonderful in keeping the familiar tunes flowing whilst we humn along. We’ll of course also not be able to meet up with so many people but we can phone them.
This year as any other year, we can share the Good News of Christ coming into our world as a tiny defenceless baby to be Emmanuel – God with us.
This year we face many challenges but it is worth reflecting, as the Christmas story unfolds, on the enormous challenges that Mary and Joseph and their baby faced that first Christmas. And as we do so, let us offer up our prayers for all new parents and their babies, may God be with them all, every step of the way.