Beauty surrounds us, but we usually need to be walking in a garden to know it - Rumi
At this time of year across the country, in schools and church halls, children are rehearsing their parts for the annual Nativity play. Whilst some will take the starring roles, others will play what seems a lesser role, for example as sheep. Of course, each part is important since without sheep there would be no shepherds and thus no angel to bring them the Good News! It is always a joy to see the happy, excited faces of the children as they take their places on stage to bring the age old story to life once again. Each performance will be different and perhaps that is part of the joy of it. What is more important however is the impact the Nativity play has on the performers and those in the audience watching as together we sing the old favourite carols, and a few new ones as well.
It is a joy too, to open the Christmas cards that come through our letter box and to read the messages and the news of friends far away; news of births, marriages, new careers, new opportunities opening up for them or their children. Sometimes, however the joy is tinged with sadness as we open a card signed this year by just one friend as their husband or wife has died or perhaps is now looked after in a care home as dementia has taken its toll.
For many this season will be tinged with sadness as there will be an empty place at the festive table. Sadly, too, there are some who have no one with whom to share their Christmas meal, who will receive no cards and indeed have no-one to send a card to. For them this Christmas time will seem as empty as every other day with only their “friends” on the TV screen for company. And spare a thought for those whose worldly possessions are contained in a carrier bag, who have no home and are struggling to survive. Yet at just such times our faith teaches us that only the healing and peace that Christ brings can ease our burdened hearts, and it is for Christ’s coming we pray.
As we light the third (rose) candle on our Advent wreath let us pray for the joy of Christ’s coming; for the joy in the children’s hearts as they perform the Nativity play. Let us pray too for the joy in receiving cards and messages from our friends and loved ones far away. And let us not forget to pray for those for whom Christmas will be just another lonely day.
In the words of the old hymn let us: “Rejoice, rejoice Emanuel shall come to thee, O Israel”
Peace and joy to you all this Christmas.
I am an Authorised Local Preacher in an Anglo Catholic parish church, in the Diocese of Essex UK