Christmas is the time of year most associated with community, be it time spent with friends and family, or communal activities such as carol services, nativity plays and tree lightings, or giving back to the community at Christmas present drives or through volunteering.
However, those of us in the UK will remember how different Christmas looked last year. Our festive plans were cancelled under last-minute national lockdown restrictions, and many of the things we often think make Christmas ‘Christmas’ - a trip to the pantomime, a big Christmas dinner with extended family and friends or Christmas Eve watchnight services and Christmas mornings services at the local church - were no longer on the table.
And today, news outlets across the country are running articles on the likelihood of Christmas being ‘cancelled’ once again. But can Christmas really be cancelled?
There’s been no official lockdown announcement from the Prime Minister yet, but plans and events are being cancelled up and down the country as COVID-19 cases continue to rise and people begin to consider, once again, staying home to keep loved ones safe. But even if a stay-at-home order is announced, communal activities cancelled, and the festivities confined to individual households, to say that Christmas is cancelled would be incorrect.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, when discussing the Church of England’s new Christmas Charity Single, said this: “At Christmas, God becomes human. His heart beats. As a frail child in a cold manger, he takes his first breaths on this earth. We often dress this time of year up, adding all the trimmings.
“These things are wonderful, but they are not the heart of Christmas. The only thing that makes Christmas perfect is Jesus, who sees, loves and welcomes all.”
When viewed this way, it becomes clear that cancelling Christmas isn’t in the remit of any government. Whatever Boris Johnson decrees, and no matter one’s lateral flow test result or decision to spend the holiday with friends and family or home alone, Christmas remains independent of our circumstances.
In a modern, increasingly secular and consumerist world, the true meaning of the festive period is often obscured. As fun as it is to buy and receive gifts, to dine out in restaurants and go for drinks; as joyous as time spent with our loved ones and attending community events can be, the true meaning of Christmas is found not in our rituals and traditions, but in reflection.
“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 Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” - Isaiah 9:6
When Christians celebrate Christmas, we celebrate God’s gift to humanity, His Son Jesus Christ. Celebrating Christmas gives us time to reflect on this defining moment in history that underlines much of our faith. Whether we reflect together in a church service, through the lighting of advent candles or in musical worship, the important thing is to reflect at all.
As cases of the omicron variant climb, the threat of covid restrictions loom, and anxiety regarding the pandemic rises, how wonderful it is to know that Christ has come to us as the Prince of Peace. And perhaps a slightly quieter Christmas would afford us a better opportunity to appreciate this wonder.
The Church of England’s theme for Advent and Christmas 2021 is ‘At the heart of Christmas’. It was devised to help people reconnect with the ‘joyful mystery’ of Jesus’ arrival. It is a deliberately uncomplicated theme with accompanying resources designed to be used by local churches in several different ways, online or in-person, ‘whatever the prevailing circumstances. We recommend watching this short video to learn more and consider what you believe to be the true meaning of Christmas.
Another pandemic Christmas is not what anyone hoped for. And the holiday season may indeed look a little different this year. But Christmas, when viewed as a celebration and period of thanksgiving for God’s gift to us, certainly cannot be cancelled.
However you spend Christmas, at The Digital Church Platform® we wish you a very joyful Christmas and a Happy New Year. And of course, whatever your church’s unique digital needs or church software requirements are, we would love to discuss how we can help you. Please contact us here.
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