This Christmas is likely to be very different. Thanks to vaccines much of our life has returned to normal. Family gatherings are planned, presents can be given in person and church services are all ready to go ahead. A complete transformation from last year.
For many people, however, Christmas will still feel a little strange. Some people are no longer with us, others have become more frail either physically or mentally. Many people’s lives have been changed dramatically. There will be more subtle changes and concerns. Are we ready for that annual trip to the pantomime? We don’t really want to be singing Christmas carols through face masks, but we will. And I’m really not sure if mummy should be kissing Santa Claus underneath the mistletoe! It won’t be quite how Christmas used to be.
For the Christian Church this is the season of Advent, a time of looking forward to the birth of Jesus Christ. This includes remembering how the Jewish people of over two thousand years ago were also looking forward to the coming of the Christ. They had experienced the trauma of having their country overrun, their capital city and temple destroyed and their people taken off into exile in Babylon. Even after their return from exile and rebuilding the city and the temple, there was a lingering sense that things were not as they had been. God was no longer with them in the way God had been in the past. They had a deep longing and a yearning for God to come and be with them again.
Advent is a time of longing and yearning for God to come close again, to know God’s presence with us and for God to make the world right again. Soon, at Christmas, we will celebrate how God comes to be with us in the person of Jesus Christ, how God is making the world right through him and is inviting us to join in.
May you know the peace and blessing of the God who comes to us in Jesus this Christmas.