Church of England Diocese of Guildford Dunsfold


1 Dec 2020, 7:15 p.m.
christmas Church_news
It may be just me, but I must admit that I’m struggling to get my head round Christmas and the new Government regulations about households! Reading the wonderful Isaiah 43 this morning, with its vision of sons and daughters being gathered from the north and the south, the east and the west, sent me back to the relevant website to try to work out just who could join us for Christmas this year among our sons and daughters (three of them in Cambridge, the east, and one in Nairobi, the south) let alone my brother (from Durham, the north) and my mother (from Somerset, the west). And how about other guests we’ve usually invited to join us for the big day itself? It’s all very complicated especially with the three household limit.

This idea of ‘household’, of course, has its roots in many ancient cultures (including Hebrew culture), where it generally referred to what we would call the ‘extended family’, including any live-in servants the family employed, any animals, and often the property itself. The Greek word ‘oikos’ (from which we derive our words ‘economy’ and ‘ecology’) was then taken up by the New Testament writers to speak of ‘God’s household’ and ‘the household of faith’ – a far broader idea, reminding us of our familial commitments to our Christian brothers and sisters and not just to our natural and nuclear nearest and dearest.

Christmas, of course, is the one time of year where we often recapture that ‘household’ vision, drawing together those within our extended families (and often some outside of them) not least to live out something of that vision of a God who ‘sets the lonely in families’ (Psalm 68:6). Whether wisely or not, the Government has recognised that such a vision, properly regulated, should take precedence over health concerns for the newly-designated ‘five days of Christmas’ from December 23rd.

But having lived in extended households for almost half of my adult life - sharing our homes with a wide range of singles and families, among them a whole clutch of interns and prospective ordinands - I wonder whether this extraordinary year might refocus our minds on what a Christian household truly entails post-pandemic. Not necessarily travelling the path of community living, though I for one would recommend that where the circumstances are right. But discovering fresh ways to ‘gather’ God’s people from the north and the south, the east and the west, to ‘set the lonely in families’, even to ‘live in love and faith’, to coin a phrase. Households are for life, not just for Christmas.

Every Blessing

Bishop Andrew