Less than two weeks ago the final post in our advent series of guest blogs launched into the blogosphere and subsequently we welcomed in the first day of Christmas, yet it seems much longer. I awoke recently to the radio and heard a discussion about whether the 5th or 6th January marks the 12th Day of Christmas, which night marks the Twelfth-Night and whether the Christmas decorations should be taken now or at Candlemas on 2nd February. Whatever your tradition, it is likely the end of 2020 and the beginning of 2021 has altered how and possibly when your usual rituals around Christmas and New Year take place. My experience, and that which I see mostly commonly around me, is that we spend months preparing for Christmas and then rather than 12 days or even 40 days of celebration it is over within a few hours as the presents are frantically unwrapped, the turkey eaten and falling asleep on the sofa during a rerun of a well-loved Christmas film.
This season begins with the grief of a new strain of covid-19 spreading rampantly, rising infections and record numbers of deaths, renewed restrictions, separation from loved ones, fear of unemployment, rises in poor mental health and political unpredictability yet there is a hope, a light shining in the darkness. The hope may appear in the form of a vaccine, a potential grant, an extension to a furlough scheme, the cancellation of school exams or another temporary measure. Each does offer hope, a flickering light to get us through a long dark tunnel, but for many the hope these offer will provide only a momentary easing of a burden. A little like climbing a mountain and exhaustedly reaching a ridge only to discover it is just that, a ridge, and the summit is still a substantial distance away. There is a greater hope, a brighter, stronger light which I believe comes through Jesus’ teaching, witness and sacrifice, a hope not only for this season but for both life and death.
I am grateful for all those who offered reflections during advent on hope, peace, joy and love and as we turn from one season into another I offer these words from C.S. Lewis…
Aslan turned to them and said:
‘You do not yet look so happy as I mean you to be.’
Lucy said, ‘We’re so afraid of being sent away, Aslan. And you have sent us back into our own world so often.’
‘No fear of that,’ said Aslan. ‘Have you not guessed?’
Their hearts leaped, and a wild hope rose within them.
‘There was a real railway accident,’ said Aslan softly. ‘Your father and mother and all of you are – as you used to call it in the Shadowlands – dead. The term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning.
And as He spoke, He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.”C.S. Lewis, ‘Chapter One of the Great Story’ in The Last Battle (1956).
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