|Posted on 18 November, 2020 at 4:00|
At the time of writing my last piece for the Coronacle I knew that Remembrance Sunday would be different this year. I had not expected that the country would be back in Lockdown. I am not the only one to notice that this lockdown feels very different to the one that began in March. The first lockdown was marked by clapping for the NHS, traffic missing from the roads, birdsong, and other signs of nature in spring bloom. We are now deep in autumn: trees are shedding their leaves and the nights are drawing in. Lincolnshire, which first time round seemed to be largely unaffected by the pandemic, is now on the front line. Our hospitals are struggling to cope. We expect the lockdown to be eased on 2nd December but what that actually means is still uncertain. I am formulating plans for how we might celebrate Christmas, or to be more precise, how we can enable as many people as possible to receive Christmas Communion. Midnight mass, assuming that public worship is permitted, will be very different. There will be restrictions on the numbers we can accommodate, and I do not expect that we will be allowed to sing carols.
The mood of this advent and Christmas will be very different, but perhaps more realistic. We tend to forget that Advent has a parallel in Lent… both are penitential seasons. Although through Advent we often focus on the theme of hope we could equally focus on death & judgement. During Advent we are encouraged to reflect on the dire state of the human condition and the world we inhabit. Climate change activists make many headlines but it took the first lockdown for many to realise to what extant modern human life has suppressed the natural world… we noticed birdsong and wildlife in our gardens to a far greater extent than we have for years. This year has caused many to re-assess their proprieties. But we have also watched politicians, presidents and others try to cling on to power; we have seen the vulnerable suffer and the weak grow weaker. Injustice and inequality abound.
Somethings never change. It took the sacking of Jerusalem and 70 years of exile in Babylon for the children of Abraham to realise how far they had wandered astray from walking in the ways of God. But it was during that exile that the prophetic voice of hope reached its climax. When they were at their lowest ebb (By the rivers of Babylon we sat down and wept! How can we sing the songs of Zion in a strange land?) they learned again what it meant to trust in God and walk in his ways. When everything seemed like doom they realised that God was still with them and had not forsaken them. But it was in that metaphorical darkness that prophets spoke of the Light of Hope. This is the message we hear throughout Advent and it come to fulfilment at Christmas. We hear it in the Gospel reading for Christmas day – the light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it. Perhaps the pandemic and experiences of this year will get us closer to the true meaning of Christmas.