Wellington Blog by the Rev Dr Norman Shanks

Who would think that what was needed
to transform and save the earth
might not be a plan or army,
proud in purpose, proved in worth?
Who would think, despite derision,
that a child would lead the way?
God surprises earth with heaven
coming here on Christmas Day.  (CH4 295 –
John L Bell and Graham Maule)

In this third week of Advent now, we are well into the ‘countdown’ towards Christmas  and, with the lockdown restrictions still in place – even if relaxed a little to the benefit of non-essential shops, the hospitality industry and shoppers who have been unable or chosen not to buy online – what a different feel there is about things this year!  However, the prospect of a few days when we shall be able to go into other people’s houses, visit (and hug!) family and friends over Christmas itself is not viewed with enthusiasm by everyone, and there may still be a degree of confusion and misunderstanding around the official guidance as to the extent to which the concept of ‘bubbles’ continues to apply.

I’m interested in the way this term ‘bubbles’ is being used through all this – with the clear implication that bubbles are safe spaces.  I’d have thought ‘cocoon’ (carrying with it the promise of new life, moreover in a different, even enhanced form) might be more appropriate, but I accept that the word doesn’t exactly trip off the tongue so appealingly. But bubbles, beautiful as they might be, are essentially fragile and very short-lived; and incidentally, unless my memory and concordance are mistaken, there’s no mention of bubbles in the Bible.

Even with the assurance and celebration of God’s love, embodied in the birth and life of Jesus, that lies at the heart of Christmas, inevitably our minds and hearts at this time are tempered with a significant measure of uncertainty and anxiety as to what lies ahead.  Yes, the news about the discovery and rolling-out of vaccines is very encouraging, but, even more than usual, we do not really have a clue what the future holds.  And of course, as if Covid was not enough, there is the folly and fiasco of the Government’s handling of Brexit, with all the forbidding predictions of its dire economic and practical consequences and widening social inequalities.

These are indeed tough times for many of us, especially for those who are already living with hardship and suffering health or financial problems.  And yet within the Christian tradition there is ample evidence of people encountering the ‘dark night of the soul’, a sort of ‘Gethsemane experience’ of desolation, isolation, even despair, into which, against the odds it may seem,  the awareness of God breaks through and faith is deepened and strengthened.  As Christmas approaches may we be especially aware of this eternal truth that we celebrate – the ‘Word made flesh’, the unquenchable, irresistible love of God that took human form in the birth of Jesus Christ.

An Advent Haiku – extended…

Beyond the hardship
tomorrow’s prospect glimmers
beckoning and bright.          

We celebrate you
Bethlehem baby
gift of light and love                                                               
sign of hope and joy
infusing, transcending,
enthusing, energising
even this locked-down Christmas

Every blessing this Christmas and beyond.


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