John Woods begins to get Christmassy …
This is the penultimate blog for 2020.
Looking back, I can’t help thinking: “I didn’t see that coming!”
We have all heard the words: “life on hold” — “unprecedented” — “circumstances beyond our control” — “new normal.”
The writer Rhydian Brook spoke on a recent Radio 4 Thought for the Day of getting his 2021 desk diary and placing it next to the 2020 dairy. He described it as ‘an itinerary of the crossed out, the cancelled and the postposed’.
What key dates have you crossed out this year?
We have become a land of broken dreams. Just as we thought that things could not get much worse, a new strain of the Coronavirus hits the UK. Even the news of vaccines starting to be given has been overshadowed by what seems to be a step back.
The tantalizing but risky five-day relaxation of the Covid restrictions over Christmas, so recently promised, has been hastily snatched away to be replaced (in most areas) by wider family gatherings on Christmas Day only.
The Book of Proverbs captures the mood well: “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” (Proverbs 13:12)
There is a lot of that heart sickness around.
Families revising their travel plans, visualising faces unseen, and distance rather than close proximity.
Retailers looking for a pre-Christmas boost to their balance sheets, the hospitality sector having to say that there are no rooms in their inns this Christmas and no tables free for the Christmas feast.
Businesses that were thriving this time last year are facing squeezed margins or worse.
Preachers: learn not to over promise and under deliver. It is always better to under promise and over deliver.
“Covid cannot cancel Christmas, it is the context for Christmas because here is where Christmas shines. It shines in the dark.” (Glen Scrivener, The Christmas Story)
It can often be the case that dark days can be the best backdrop for seeing the light.
Many people have found a welcome spark of light in the darkness in the glamour, glitter and grace of BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing 2020. Despite the challenges presented by social distancing the show lived up to its catchphrase: “Keep dancing.”
Last Saturday Bill Bailey won this year’s competition. What was so delightful about this was how it took everybody by surprise. Who would have thought that a 55-year old man with no dance experience should prove to be such an energetic, creative and consistent performer? This, and the fact that he was a self-effacing gentleman, was a great tonic in a challenging year.
When Bill Bailey was asked what his professional dance partner had done for him he said, “she saw something in me that I had never seen.”
Preachers at Christmas need to learn how to connect with what is deeply hidden in human hearts, hints of the divine, longings for things that we can’t see, and desires for what we can’t begin to describe.
As CS Lewis put it, these desires point beyond themselves to something more: “…they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.”
Maybe we have allowed ourselves to expect too much of Christmas?
Could Christmas sometimes be overrated?
“The only thing that makes Christmas perfect is Jesus … may God’s presence this Christmas bring you His comfort and surprise you with His joy, wherever and whoever you are.” (Justin Welby)