Advent 2 – Preparing For Christmas

If you’re like me you may still have many things to get sorted before you can relax. ‘Some hope’, might be your response as you’re preparing for a possible family re-union if we’re not still in ‘Lock-down’! This “on” and then “off” change in Covid-19 guidelines is well and truly a pain in the nether regions! But whatever happens Christmas will take place! And, its significance is still as relevant today for people who are anxious, lonely, and unsure of their future.

It will certainly be different this year. Some stores may not have everything you want. So it may be even more stressful! It may not be the usual chaos because of the ‘safe spacing’, but we’re still likely to see ‘masked’ shoppers manoeuvring around us in their desire to get that last tin or packet! Hopefully stock-piling won’t leave some short of necessities, and I pray that our Food Bank is well supported so that the less fortunate may enjoy their Christmas too!

There may be fewer Christmas cards due to Face-time and texting. I expect some will still decorate the home and garden, competing with Blackpool’s illuminations! But, over the years my favourite in our street has been a wonderful display of a stable with the manger and Christ-child. It is simple, to the point, and reminds us that Jesus was born as a stranger in Bethlehem and didn’t have the choice of staying in a local hotel! Possibly a New Testament ‘rough sleeper’ who got some posh visitors bearing gifts?

Those neighbours remind us that Christmas is not ‘Xmas’ or a Winter Festival where the world goes absolutely barmy! It is the annual invitation to acknowledge God’s gift to us of Jesus - and of his ministry of love and reconciliation. Angels proclaimed: “To you a Saviour is born, a King, come and worship him”. And they ended with “Peace on Earth, and Goodwill to all people”! Even for rough sleepers, and then refugees – something that the Holy Family were as they travelled to Egypt!

I’m unaware of ever seeing an angel as described in the nativity stories, but I am absolutely convinced of the vast number of ‘angelic’ people that exist around us. How many people have benefitted from the Street Pastors, The Bower House Counselling Service, The Cube’s youth work, the Food Bank and the countless other volunteer led agencies that pick up what governments have ceased to fund via statutory authorities? Some only see funding cuts and this pandemic causing chaos all around us – but others also try to fill the gaps and help folk in need!

Recent “Angels” were heralded and honoured. Folk like centenarian Captain Tom and a young footballer, Marcus Rashford, who challenged HMG and got food for children. HMG refused to follow-up at Christmas until a further back-lash made them find more funding! Locally we celebrated when Cllr Roger Dunton was named in the Queen’s Honours List for his work for our community. Angels are those who inspire and encourage us to also carry out the task of offering good-will to others and working for Peace in our troubled and strife torn world.

Christmas is meant to be a time of peace and good-will. Not just for others, but for us too. It is a time to reflect on not simply the ‘Ah, how sweet’ moment of the birth of a child, but on what the Christ-child has meant throughout the centuries. More importantly, it is still meaningful today, so I challenge others to join with other human “Angels” and stand up for Love, Compassion, Mercy, Justice and Peace – and bring about a fair and just society where all may live in peace and harmony. A place where all may share in a life in all its fullness. Remember, even Scrooge had a change of heart at Christmas, so I wonder what we can do to make a difference?

Hark, the herald “Angels” sing: so give thanks for God’s gifts to you, and let your voices and actions give glory to God in the highest! Alleluia and Amen!

Dave Tomlin
Advent 2020