This morning I received the news that my Godfather, Roger, had died. He wasn’t the best of Godfathers but when I was young he was always good for a tube of smarties – and he was a good bloke to boot. We exchanged letters just a couple of weeks ago and I was able to share a little of what it means to know and be known by Jesus – something of the glad tidings of comfort and joy that we focus on especially at this time of year. What he did with that I do not know.
I’ve not blogged for a while, and today I was going to do a post focussing on how unusual this Christmas will be and how difficult it will be especially for those who are forced to be on their own at Christmas. Roger’s death has thrown that into clearer focus being just a few days from Christmas Day. He and his wife, Rose, are in Kent and therefore in Tier 4 just like us, and so she will be truly alone this Christmas, along with so many others who have lost loved ones to Covid 19 this year.
What do you say to someone who has just received such sad tidings? To someone who suddenly finds themselves alone on Christmas Day knowing that they will never see their loved one again? I come back to three key verses of scripture: first of all, Matthew 1v23 – “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God with us’). Second, John 1v5, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” And third, from John 1 again but in the Message version, and my favourite rendering of the verse, “The Word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighbourhood.” (v14)
Without wanting to sound glib, because of Christmas we can know glad tidings even when faced with sad tidings. Without the Incarnation we would truly be lost in our grief, our sin and our despair, but with the Incarnation there is always hope, there is always light in the darkness, there is always a way forward. How we express that and share it with others depends upon the circumstances, but that is what we are called to do. We are called to be Incarnational and demonstrate the truth of Immanuel in our lives and to others.
Two ways to do that this Christmas spring to mind. First, if you find yourself on your own, use the time positively to connect with God yourself – thank God for the space to stop and hear His voice. And second, coming out of that, let God speak to you about people who are often alone on Christmas Day, and maybe pick up the phone and give them a call, or even a doorstep visit. It’s such a small thing to do but could make a world of difference for them.
Actually there’s a third thing too – take time to pray for all those who have been bereaved this year and are facing their first Christmas without their loved ones – and being a little indulgent, please pray for Rose. I will be taking Roger’s funeral, so please pray for me too.
God bless, stay well and have a peaceful, Christ-filled Christmas