December has arrived. Today we emerge out of lockdown. From now on, in London at least, restrictions on our movement, our activities and our meeting together have been eased. As a Congregation, from this Sunday onwards we will be able once again to worship together in the Church building – suitably socially distanced and wearing face coverings – but nevertheless able to be together. This year, in practical terms, Christmas will be unlike any other for so many of us. But it will still be Christmas.
As I walk around the Suburb and the surrounding area, I am struck by the effort being made by so many to decorate their houses, maybe even making more of an effort this year than they might otherwise have done. Almost as if it is an act of defiance thrown in the face of the ravages of the pandemic. It serves as yet another illustration, albeit unwittingly, of what is my favourite Christmas text, ‘The light shines in the darkness…and the darkness has not overcome it.’ We know that the Govt. has had many difficult decisions in respect of balancing the health and well-being of all us over against preserving the economic health and well-being of the country as a whole. Considerable pressure has been brought to bear from all sides of the argument. Trying to satisfy the wants and needs of all concerned is an impossible balancing act, for whoever would be in power.
Particular attention has been focussed on making possible, a ‘family Christmas’, with the result that for five days – 23rd to the 27th December – restrictions will be eased to allow extended families to be together. This is entirely laudable, but it brings with it a great risk. I don’t know how you imagine you will be affected, and it is not for me to tell you what to do, but I do want to urge all of us to be cautious. The very last thing anyone of us would want to do would be to put family members in danger. Neither would anyone of us want to see the progress made in bringing down rates of infection sacrificed just for the sake of having a fun-filled ‘family’ Christmas. Nor would we want to see the NHS unnecessarily overburdened at what it traditionally its busiest time of the year, just because we weren’t as vigilant as we should have been. Knowing my ‘readership’ as I do, I sense I might well be ‘preaching to the converted’ in this regard, but just in case anyone of you/us was thinking of flouting the rules please, please think again. I am disappointed that this will be the first ever Christmas for me when I have not been able to sing Christmas Carols in Church; however creative we might be concerning worship services during the Christmas period, it just won’t be the same without singing ‘Away in a Manger’, ‘Hark, the Herald Angels Sing’, ’O Come all ye Faithful’ and all the other seasonal favourites.
But it has to be, for all our sakes. So, as you plan your Christmas, please be sensible…