For many of us Christmas is all about traditions. The traditions we have as families: coming together, arguing over who makes the best gravy, children playing with the box and the wrapping paper rather than the actual gift, Grandad falling asleep in the chair and someone cheating at the games.
It is important to acknowledge that this year will be different. As a family, we have had conversations about how different it will be. It is only the second Christmas ever that my children who are now 16 and 19, will not be with their cousins. The first time it happened, we were visiting my husband’s family in South Africa, so they were still with family. Different is not inferior, different is simply different, and this year might be the time to establish some new traditions.
If comments in the media are to be believed, Christmas is in danger of being cancelled this year. From a Christian perspective, Christmas cannot be cancelled. The central message of Christianity is that Christ came as a baby at Christmas representing that God is with us, He is Emmanuel. “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6) This is what we celebrate each year.
But before we can arrive at the Joy of Christmas day, we must move through the darkness and waiting of Advent. During this time, we seek the comfort of God’s presence in the darkness. Many of us open a window in our Advent Calendars to count down towards Christmas. The church counts down in a similar way by lighting an Advent Candle each Sunday in the run up to Christmas to remind us of the presence of God.
Each of the Advent Candles has a different meaning. The first Advent Candle is for all of God’s people and is the candle of hope. The second Advent candle is for the Old Testament prophets who foretold Jesus’ birth and is the candle of peace. The third Advent candle is for John the Baptist who asked us to prepare our hearts to welcome God, so it is also the candle of love. The final candle is for Mary, the mother of Jesus, who joyfully carried the Saviour, so it is the candle of joy. Four candles representing hope, peace, love, and joy. I am sure you will agree, we need a sprinkling of hope, peace, love and joy this year! Perhaps, this year, during Advent, at 6pm each Sunday, we could light a candle in our window as a reminder that God longs to give us his comfort and his joy.
Amidst the challenges that Covid has thrown at all of us, I do hope you will be able to find some of God’s hope, peace, love, and joy. I would also like to wish you all a happy, blessed Christmas and New Year.
Revd Hannah Moore