Christmas Message 2020

2020, what a year!  I wonder what it’s been like for you?

What’s been the hardest thing? Perhaps someone you love died or was seriously ill. Perhaps you had a birthday in lockdown, or your holiday was cancelled. You might have felt stuck at home and missed your mates. It might have felt boring and dull and everyone just going on and on about Covid19.

But maybe there were things you that enjoyed too. Perhaps you had more time for art, music, the natural world, films, TV, music or games. Perhaps you enjoyed being at home chilling out, or you liked being ‘homeschooled’ and spending all day in your pyjamas. 

Perhaps it was a year when you learnt more about yourself. Perhaps you found some inner strength – you learnt how to cope better when things got difficult. 

Or maybe you learnt more about the world. Big things have been highlighted this year – Black Lives Matter, Climate Crisis, the importance of the NHS, the value of key workers. 

The truth is we learn more about life and ourselves in times of struggle and suffering, than we do when life is easy. That’s one of the grown-up facts about life that even grown ups don’t like to acknowledge. When life is hard you learn about resilience, compassion and love. You learn what really matters. You learn what’s important in life. 

You learn (unless you just stick your head in the sand and avoid thinking completely) how to be a better person.

To be a better person I think you also need a bit of inspiration.

Perhaps this year you were inspired by NHS workers and bus drivers, teachers and supermarket workers, scientists and community leaders, parents and carers – all those in fact who tried to keep people safe, make people well and help people survive during this global pandemic. We owe them all a huge debt of gratitude. 

The first Christmas story was also tough – it wasn’t all mince pies and Christmas trees. That first Christmas was about Jesus being born in Bethlehem – in a stable, not a palace. His birth was announced to Shepherds, not to powerful people. His family soon became refugees and his earthly father was a carpenter. Jesus didn’t have a life of privilege or wealth. He was always on the side of the poor and the victimized. 

Everything that he did and taught was to tell us one important thing: God loves you. God cares for you. God is with you.

One of Jesus’ names is Emmanuel – it means God with us. 

Through thick and think, in the darkness and the light, on good days and bad – God is with us. Knowing that gives me hope.

Desmond Tutu said: “Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.”

That feels like a good thought to hold onto this Christmas. Things will be different. And maybe hard. We will need to do all that we can do to connect with people and combat loneliness, isolation and depression. Perhaps you think that’s a lot to ask of a young person? But this year, it’s been my teenage nephews and nieces who have helped me to stay positive – sending me Tik Tok videos and funny Gifs and doing cute things on Family Facetimes. 

I wonder what could you do that would bring fun and laughter and help someone to feel loved and cared for? I wonder what we could do to bring hope, peace, light and joy to those around us this Christmas. It would be the most Christmassy thing you could do in 2020.

Revd Sheridan James, Vicar of St Catherine’s