A letter from Revd. Neil Lambert
Have you noticed? Whenever you turn on the television or radio lately, without a doubt you will hear someone talking about ‘Christmas is cancelled’, ‘Covid stole Christmas’, ‘Christmas is on hold’ or even coming up with 101 ways to ‘save Christmas’. The media is fixated on the issue. However, it seems to me that the real damage being done to “Christmas” in 2020 is to that commercial ideal of Christmas ‘with all the trimmings’. The culture of excess, over consumption, endless novelty and waste is being challenged this year. Faced with financial uncertainty many of us are reflecting on what the ‘real’ meaning of Christmas is, and it is about Christmas that is really important.
Well, the good news is that the real Christmas doesn’t need saving – in fact, its here to save us! The birth of our saviour Jesus Christ is a gift from God and cannot be taken away. Every Sunday throughout the year at St Mary’s we remember that God came to be among his people, in order to save us. He came in the form of a man – Jesus Christ – to show us the way. God has not abandoned his people. That baby in the manger, the same saviour who died on a cross for us and was raised from the dead, is more than capable of visiting us in a pandemic. No virus, no government regulations, no gates, shields, doors or barriers can come between us and Him.
The truth is, that the first Christmas was far from jolly. It came at one of the worst times in history for God’s people. They were occupied by a foreign force, suffering under corrupt government and looking for a saviour to bring justice and peace. The amazing thing is that God appeared, as a baby, and the first people to hear about it from the angel host were not the kings and leaders of the day, but instead a bunch of poor shepherds our in the fields watching their flock. God sent an angel choir to some of the poorest, humblest people in the community, and told them the good news before anyone else. Speaking of humble, the other central figures in the story of Jesus’s birth were similarly low in the social pecking order. Mary the mother of Jesus was a young girl, not yet married when the angel appeared to her to tell her she had been chosen to bear God’s son. Her response to the news though is pure joy, and the Magnificat, her joyful song, is one of the most beautiful passages in the whole of scripture.
Luke 1:46-56 Mary’s Song (New International Version)
And Mary said:“ My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, 49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me— holy is his name. His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, just as he promised our ancestors.”
Paintings by Sandro Botticelli “Mystical Christmas” and “Madonna Magnificat”
Two paintings that I love by Botticelli. The first shows the angels singing and dancing around the baby Jesus and his mum Mary. I particularly like the angels on the roof dressed in white red and green symbolising Grace, Truth and Justice in juxtaposition with the two devils hiding under the rocks at the bottom. In the next painting called “Madonna Magnificat” we picture Mary writing her song of praise helped by the angels in attendance while baby Jesus sits on her lap holding a pomegranate a symbol of eternal life. Notice how beautifully Botticelli paints the hands that move along the bottom of this masterpiece.
We may not be able to do all the usual things we would normally do this Christmas, but in our households and bubbles we can celebrate God, who is unlimited and all powerful. One of His many gifts to us is our creativity and this year we all have the opportunity to be creative. We can send messages of love and hope to our loved ones in so many ways now using the internet, phones and cards. We can’t gather for a big Christingle service but we can bring joy to one another by singing carols outside, sharing what we have, and ringing bells on our doorsteps at 6pm on Christmas eve as an act of solidarity, love and hope. Even if you haven’t got a bell, shake your keys, ring the doorbell, or make a joyful noise in whatever way you choose. Let’s join with the angel song and celebrate what really matters.
“All Glory be to God on high , and to the earth be peace;
goodwill henceforth from heav’n to men begin and never cease.”
Wishing you every blessing this Christmas,