Dear Ones of St. Columba's,
This is the week that Advent turns into Christmas, and we stop waiting for God and instead celebrate God's incarnation. Incarnation - literally in the flesh. God in the flesh in Jesus Christ, Emmanuel, God-with-us. Christmas is more than a day, it is a season that is twelve days long. This is because, as Godly Play reminds us, the mystery of God-with-us is too big for just one day.
This year Christmas is different. And yes, there is sadness and grief in that difference. We are not able to be with our families, many of us, and the risk of illness and death stalks each of us right now. I would guess that in some ways the reality of Covid will be even more present as we try to cope in the ways we can - some of us adapting our traditions, others just not doing anything very similar to years before. All of us, I hope, aware that for hundreds of thousands of families there will be someone missing from this holiday forever.
Yes, that is uncommonly sad, even for Christmas. (Because friends, if we are honest emotions always run high this time of year and sadness is as common a companion for many of us as joy, wonder, and awe.)
One of my favorite Mary Oliver poems is one of her shortest.
Someone I loved once gave me a box of darkness. It took me years to understand that this, too, was a gift.
I think about this poem often when I am sad or hurt. I ask myself, what is the gift in this box?
I wonder if we can ask this question of Christmas, this year. What is the gift of this Christmas? I think there are many. God-with-us shows up in the midst of sadness, of mourning, of fear and uncertainty. God-with-us comes into the world in the cold darkness of winter, into corrupt Empires and poor families. God-with-us cannot be stopped from being with us, not by plague, or unrest, or even the sadness of our own hearts.
Friends, it is Christmas and like any baby being born, God-with-us will arrive, and has arrived, and is always arriving in our midst. This year we have access to the reality of this in a new way. I am not grateful for the pandemic. I am grateful for the gifts that it has brought to us, however, gifts of knowledge, perspective, and the opportunity to discover God-with-us again, and no matter what.
with care and gratitude,