Don’t Miss the Holy Moments
As the pace increases in the run up towards Christmas and we tend to live our lives at a hundred miles an hour, it’s easy to miss all sorts of things.
As we strive to complete our work and ensure all the preparations are made, we tend to have tunnel vision. ‘To do’ lists are dotted around various rooms reminding us about various tasks we ought to complete and, depending on how we feel, we perhaps avoid certain rooms where the list seems overwhelming and retreat to somewhere where it’s a bit more manageable.
One of the painful realities for many people at this time of year is having loved ones who are not well. Perhaps they are at home and require carers or, maybe, they have had to move into a care home as it is no longer safe for them to live at home. Physical issues and memory issues can combine to make life incredibly complex and challenging as we get older.
One of the things which has been particularly striking to me on my Christmas rounds is how many people are living with these realities. Sometimes friends from outside the church ask me about the sorts of things I do on those days when there are no church services. When I speak with them about visiting people in their homes or in hospitals or nursing homes their eyes tend to widen a bit. “We didn’t realise that the church did stuff like that,” they tell me.
I’m often moved by the way photographs can trigger powerful things with those who suffer with memory issues.
This year’s Church Christmas card features an image of the illuminated Christmas tree in the church grounds, with details of the Christmas services and events. Previous year’s cards featured the church photographed during times of snow. It’s amazing to see how, even these photographs, can evoke such recognition and affection.
Last week, on one such visit to a nursing home, the lady stroked the card as I showed it to her. Her voice trembled with emotion as she read the words ‘Christmas Blessings’ and as she saw the illuminated tree and read about ‘The word becoming flesh.’ She said, “You have brought the light of Christ to this place.” What an incredible insight she had. Everywhere God’s people go they bring the light of Christ. The world needs many such lights to be shining at a time of great darkness.
In another home, some family members had assembled to share a short service of Holy Communion and someone, whose mood had been variable, connected completely into all that was unfolding. They joined in all the responses and remembered all those familiar words and prayed them with a fervour and engagement that touched all of us who were present.
Even in the days when things are not going to plan, like when the power tripped in the church requiring us to relocate all our services to the hall, people didn’t grumble. Instead, some people came early and set out tables and chairs. Others stood outside in the rain to direct people to the right place, and people sang and prayed as if what they were doing really mattered and was the most important thing they were going to do on that day. Younger parishioners volunteered to light advent wreaths and lifted pianos about the place and, again, it was like little bursts of light breaking through the moments of frustration and darkness.
I think of the atmosphere at organisations and groups. People are attentive to others who are not so mobile, or have different health issues. Careful plans are made to acknowledge people’s achievements or birthdays, and celebrations are put in motion. This is a great tribute to all our leaders and organisers who strive to be inclusive, to work hard, but enjoy one another’s company and who constantly seek to spread Good news and help people to flourish.
We hope as many as possible will be able to enjoy our 9 Lessons and Carols on Sunday evening at 7 pm. A warm invitation is extended to all.
In the midst of the sadness and challenges many are facing let’s be attentive to their needs and support in whatever way we can. Let’s celebrate the simple joys as we encounter them. One evening, recently, a man shared with me how happy he was to see his daughter at university managing her household, overseeing the payment of bills, coordinating food shopping and cooking rosters, and loving her course.
As people share their joys, as well as their challenges, let’s reflect on the Eugene Peterson translation of John 1 verse 14 in the Message.
“The Word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighbourhood.”
May you and I bring His presence with us into our neighbourhoods over the coming weeks and live as if he matters to us.
Look forward to speaking again soon.
Much love to everyone,
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