At the heart of Christmas
Last year, many of the familiar experiences that bring Christmas to life for all of us were lost because of the terrifying spread of the deadly Coronavirus throughout the population.
School nativities, office parties, carol singing, pantomimes, family gatherings for Christmas dinner, and much more that brings joy to so many, were often cancelled.
This year, the emergence of the new, highly-transmissible Omicron variant means the infection rate is, once again, rising alarmingly.
Despite the incredible effort being made to supply booster vaccines to all adults by the end of December, our celebrations again feel threatened and fragile.
That has focused my mind on what really matters.
At the heart of Christmas is the good news of God’s saving love revealed in the birth of Jesus.
What matters to me therefore, is echoing that generous love of God.
This year, I am determined to ensure that generosity to others lies at the heart of my Christmas.
That means I have given especially careful thought and attention to the gifts I buy for family, friends and colleagues this year but without forgetting that generosity is so much more than the material things we give to one another.
Generosity is about being available to others, making time for them and doing the things that matter to them rather than just the things I want to do.
It means stepping up to help with all the mundane but essential practical jobs at home like washing-up and taking out the recycling and rubbish for collection.
It means listening, paying proper attention and allowing others to disturb me, even when I want some peace and quiet.
It means looking beyond myself and my own family - to those who will be without shelter, food or care this Christmas and asking myself 'what generosity can I show them whether financially, through my attitude, or with my time'?
That first Christmas, Mary was overwhelmed by the generosity of the innkeeper offering shelter, the shepherds who left their flock to the mercy of the hillside, the wise men who travelled from afar to bring precious gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
She treasured these amazing things in her heart and pondered on them, wondering what those extraordinary events of the first Christmas might mean for her and her family then and in the years ahead.
As we reflect upon the generosity of God’s love for us, and see it reflected in the behaviour of those around us, may we too treasure the real gift of Christmas and take its spirit forwards into what will almost certainly be a very challenging 2022.
God’s love is not just something to be unwrapped for Christmas, shared for a few days and then put away for another year.
It is something we can draw on each and every day.
We can all commit ourselves to living a life that shows, in real and practical ways, that whatever else is cancelled in the months ahead, whoever we are and whatever our circumstances, God’s love is always available and ready to be shared generously with those around us.
Bishop Libby Lane
Bishop of Derby