We are not used to Christmas under strict Government restrictions. It seems rather inappropriate, when our usual experience of Christmas is large gatherings and freedom to come and go as we wish. But I wonder if we need to revisit what is appropriate, and to reassess what is usual in our world.
Mary and Joseph were under strict Government restrictions when Jesus was born. They were required by the authorities to travel for several days, from Galilee to Judea, for the census which the Romans demanded they fulfil. There was no get-out clause for a full-term pregnant mum. It was an onerous requirement, compounded by the ridiculous overcrowding in Bethlehem, the tribal home town where they were legally obligated to go.
Maybe celebrating Christmas in an atmosphere of onerous Government restrictions is strangely appropriate. The limitations on our movements will remind us that God’s only begotten Son came into this same world. Jesus knows our predicament. He took trouble to join us in our trouble.
Perhaps our gratitude to God will be more heartfelt this year. It deserves to be.
Jesus was still a baby in Bethlehem when his situation became worse than lockdown. King Herod sent his soldiers to kill all of the boys under two years old. Mary and Joseph made a run for it, under cover of darkness. Like many African and Asian Christians today being terrorised by militant Muslims (and others) in areas where corrupt officials indulge those who slaughter and kidnap, Jesus’ family knew real danger. Danger is the usual background to many Christmas celebrations in our world. It is a great encouragement that our Saviour’s mission to save us was not safe.
Perhaps our worship will be keener this year. It ought to be.
Our plans for Christmas at St Luke’s are different this year. It’s hard for all of us to make plans at present. We have tried to acknowledge the need to serve our community by avoiding large gatherings in confined spaces, so our special Christmas services will be on Zoom. Our Carol Service on Sunday 20th at 7pm is on Zoom. Our Candle & Crib Services on Christmas Eve at 3pm and 5pm are on Zoom. Our all-age ZOOM Christmas Day special is 10.30am. Log in details are ID: 856 031 5150, Password 902272.
If we are allowed to hold small services in church, we plan a Christmas Eve Midnight Communion at 11pm (with facemasks and social distancing) and a Christmas Day Communion at 9am. These will be quieter services with no singing, as required by the authorities.
I will dearly miss the chance to sing classic carols in a church crowd. But I will make sure I join the crowd on Zoom. And sing my heart out in my room.
I will miss not being in church with the special atmosphere. But I am ready to be moved by the good news of great joy, on Zoom.
Not many people had a front row seat on the first Christmas night. At least we’ve got technology. And lots else to be thankful for:
God so loved the world He sent His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.
Happy Christmas to you from Jean & I, and a New Year full of grace and goodness,