Janet`s letter to the Community

Janet’s letter to the Community

Christmas - one of the pillars of the Christian year, a story that has the power to change lives – to change the world.  Yet, in post-Christian Britain, it has more significance for most people as a secular festival of family reunion, gift-giving and over-eating.  People spend more money than they can afford on giving presents that may not even be appreciated.  We eat more than we need, or even enjoy.  And we gather in groups that can sometimes reveal tensions usually kept carefully under control.

The pressure to create a “perfect Christmas” can be very strong.  Many of us have an image in our minds of Victorian scenes, showing happy children and indulgent adults enjoying huge meals and rumbustious party games, celebrating ideal family life.  It is easy to forget that, for the vast majority of the population, no such celebrations were possible.  At the time of publication of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, Christmas Day was not a Public Holiday, many people would have had to work, large elaborate meals would have been an impossible dream and families have always been complicated.  But the idealised version remains in our minds, and the pressure can feel intense.

It may be even harder this year, when so much is uncertain.  Those who look forward to gathering together in large family groups may be denied them.  And even if we can gather, there may be underlying fear about the possibility of transmission of the virus.  For some, the usual celebrations will be filled with sadness due to the absence of loved ones who have died.  Others may be mourning the loss of jobs or imagined futures.  Still others may be grappling with illness – their own, or that of someone close.  It has been a tough year.

And so this year, we will be offering a service called “The Longest Night” on 21st December.  It will be a very simple service, lasting about three-quarters of an hour, of quiet music, readings and prayers, with plenty of space for reflection.  It will provide space for all to remember the message of Christmas, without a need to fabricate seasonal merriment.

Whatever our Government decides, God has not cancelled Christmas.  The truth of his incarnation is still real.  At Christmas we remember that the God of creation entered our world as a helpless baby to draw alongside us and, ultimately, to make for us a way to himself.  This is “God in the mess”, God, not standing aloof from the difficulties of human life, but entering into them, sharing them, God with us. Whatever your struggles, God is still God and he still loves you.  It is my prayer that you will find comfort in this Christmas season and strength for the year to come.


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