The meaning of Christmas is that God does not do social distancing! He wants to be as close to us as we will allow him to be. Christians believe that God sent his son to be alongside us, to show us how much he loves us and how we can best show love to others.
It may surprise you to know that Jesus' birth is only mentioned in two of the four Gospels – the books of the New Testament of the Bible which tell of Jesus' life. Matthew mentions it briefly but only Luke tells of the stable, the shepherds and the angels. On the other hand, all four of them tell of Jesus' death and resurrection 33 years later. That is because Easter is the necessary culmination of Jesus' life, when he removed any barrier between us and God and showed that we are all accepted just as we are. At Christmas, we celebrate Jesus coming into the world as a vulnerable baby in an obscure village so that he could live alongside us, know us and understand us and our experiences.
My colleagues' recent posts about Diwali and Hanukkah demonstrate that more unites us than divides us. Christians see the birth of Jesus as an expression of great hope and the victory of light over darkness. If you look at the well-known opening to John's Gospel, this is expressed in a very beautiful but quite obscure way; the sort of language that could have lawyers poring over it!
We will not be celebrating Christmas this year in the same way as usual. We will miss large gatherings and seeing family and friends. But Christmas isn't cancelled! Throughout this year, church communities of all faiths have banded together and shown great imagination in finding ways to offer practical help and ways to connect to the communities around them. We have held services in a range of ways as the rules have shifted and changed.
Our services on YouTube are joined now by people around the country and even abroad. We will have to consider whether we should keep an online presence when we can all be back in our building. Online services give an opportunity for people to dip into church who might have been nervous to step into the building. So maybe give it a go if you find yourself with more time than usual over Christmas. Why not drop in on a service and say hello in the chat? You will always receive a warm welcome!
Whatever Christmas looks like for you this year, may you know peace and hope. All of us here at Russell-Cooke extend our warmest season's greetings to all.