But the angel said to them,
"Do not be afraid; for see-
I am bringing you good news
of great joy for all people...."
Luke 2:10 (NRSV)
Dear Sisters and Brothers,
We have probably heard too much about parties over the last few weeks: parties that should not have happened last Christmas; parties that were cancelled and parties that may not happen this year.
Most responsible people have been sticking to the COVID rules and guidance so they can help to protect their families and neighbours as well as themselves. We will need to learn to have parties and to celebrate again when the pandemic has finally receded and we can learn to live with the virus as we do with many other viruses. The pandemic has made it hard to keep up the connections that are so important to healthy and fulfilling living. Simply meeting people on a flat screen is just not the same, and those who do not have access to the technology can be even more excluded.
The angels' message to the shepherds was about the God who makes connections. In the coming of the baby born in Bethlehem God was connecting with people and all of creation in a new way: God became one of us and was reaching out to all of humanity. In that action God was opening up the possibility of humankind becoming reconnected by making a nonsense of all the artificial barriers of ethnicity, gender, sexuality, nationality, ability etc. that we construct between ourselves. The image that Jesus often used to explain this was that God was throwing a massive party to which every-one is invited and where there is room and sufficient for all.
We have experienced loss and grief over the last two years and know about conflict, the plight of refugees and the effects of the climate emergency. So, the message of the angels that Jesus' birth is hope and joy for all people is one that still needs to be heard today. While humbly recognising that we have not always been very good at living this good news we should encourage one another to reach out into our circles of friends and communities with the angels' message. To make connections and assure people that our churches pray for them and care about the things that matter to our communities.
With best wishes for Christmas and the New Year,
Revd John Hellyer