Friday, 23 April 2021

Christmas lights make me happy and more optimistic

AT our church, the first words we will read at Christmas are: “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light; on those who live in a land of deep shadow a light has shone. You have made their gladness greater, you have made their joy increase.” (Isaiah 9,1)

I am grateful that Christmas has come “early” this year. The decorations and displays seem to have been in place for several weeks. Just around the corner from me, in St Andrew’s Road, there is a wonderful collection of white Christmas lights shining outside a group of houses and on the hedges up the road. For me, these cheerful displays have been a light in the growing darkness.

I would like to use this column to thank those many people who in this way have made my gladness greater and my joy increase.

These lights point to that greater light and hope for us all; the birth of Jesus Christ, the light of the world.

This Christmas will be celebrated in a land of deep shadow but I hope the light of Christ will shine all the greater in this darkness.

I see this light shining in the many acts of kindness which have become such a feature of this terrible year.

This Christmas will be a challenge for all of us and the church is no different. Last year, 800 people attended on Christmas Day; this year we can only accommodate 135 people.

But challenges also offer new insights and possibilities. Perhaps I may offer a few suggestions, from the lessons we have learnt this year:

• Christmas is a season, not a day. There are 12 days of Christmas. Why not give yourself a little Christmas spirit each day until the Epiphany on January 6 (twelfth night).

• Our New Year celebrations may be more subdued and we will all be happy to see the back of 2020. However, take a moment to think of those who have given so much for us all in 2020 — the key workers, our saints next door.

• Look forward with hope. The light is growing and there are several reasons to be optimistic about 2021. Have faith.

• To my saints next door in St Andrew’s Road, I would say, ‘keep the lights shining until at least the January 6’.

• In each of the churches in Henley, we keep our Christmas crib in place until February 2. I’d love to see those Christmas lights in our hedges and trees in the streets of Henley and the main square still shining until then.

Because they make my gladness greater and my joy increase.

I wish you a very happy Christmas and a happy New Year.

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