Church of England Diocese of Guildford Dunsfold


21 Dec 2020, 6:30 p.m.

by The Revd Canon Dr Sandra Millar

As you put all your decorations around the house and on the tree, do you find room for that one that you’ve kept for years, or that one the children made, all wonky and torn, yet so very precious? In my family, it’s a small musical plastic crib , well over 60 years old. The shepherds and wise men go round and round the little family in the stable. But the sheep have fallen off and a wise man keeps keeling over. We still display it, because although it’s broken, it’s full of memories.

As Christmas draws close, it might feel more than a bit broken. It might feel broken because you can’t travel to be with people, because you have no work and can’t provide generously; because your relationships have fractured under the strain of the last few months, or because those we love are just not with us any more.

The expectations that we pile on ourselves can make us feel that these next few days have to take us to an unrealistic perfection, so that it’s hard to admit that we might feel sad.

The story of Mary is not a perfect story. It is the story of a young unmarried woman, living in a small village, who will be criticised, will journey far from home and give birth in a stable. Her cousin, Elizabeth, has not had a perfect life either, for there has been the terrible pain of longing for years for a child that never came. It is to these two women that God speaks the promise of a future, of healing and of light in the darkness.

As we light the fourth candle of Advent, we acknowledge that in the joy of Christmas preparation, there will also be brokenness, and that it is to the broken that God will speak the promise of new life. The words of the angels to Mary are just the beginning of the story, and the beginning of hope.

Sandra Millar is Head of Welcome and Life Events for The Church of England.