“None of us can slow the passage of time; and while we often focus on all that has changed in the intervening years, much remains unchanged, including the Gospel of Christ and his teachings.”
With such words, the Queen addressed the inaugural meeting of the Church of England’s General Synod, although due to ill health, her words were spoken by her youngest son Prince Edward. The Queen also acknowledged that for many 2021, had been ‘a time of anxiety, of grief, and of weariness’ as we continue to struggle with the coronavirus and its terrible effects upon individuals and society at large. “Yet the Gospel has brought hope (she declared) as it has done throughout the ages.” The Queen’s words carried a weight not only befitting her status as the Monarch, but of a woman who had also suffered grief during the year and was now contemplating her own mortality, and yet still – the Gospel has brought hope!
There are many occasions in the Gospel story when Jesus also contemplated his own human mortality and spoke to his disciples about it; “I am with you for only a short time” he had said “before I must go and return to the Father” (John 7.33ff), meaning by his forthcoming death upon the cross. But what hope can there be in death? Well, usually not much – but the death of Christ was different, because his very purpose was not just to live but to die for the ‘sins of the world’, bearing within his own body all the terrible consequences of our broken and fallen world caused by our sin and general inability to live as God would wish – that waywardness which not only spoils our relationships between ourselves but with God himself. A waywardness that even knocks the natural order out of balance. However, his death is not so much a sign of God angers towards the human race, but of his great love and compassion for it, for at Christmas, Christians celebrate the fact that God did not remain aloof, distant or uncaring, but in the person of Jesus, stepped into this world of ours as a small baby, that he might live and die for us, so that ultimately we might escape that dreadful ending and be forgiven. Yet the story does not stop there, because his death was not the end; three days later he rose again, and his resurrection (as witnessed by so many of his friends) was the proof that new life was possible for all who put their faith and trust in him, not just in this world but the next, just as he had promised. Therefore – we have hope! A hope that is reflected in the fact that Jesus described himself as being ‘the light of the world’. So, whatever your circumstance, whether it be joyful or sad, hold on to this hope – and light your candles, light up your Christmas trees, and plug in your candle arches as we celebrate our eternal Christmas hope together.
May God bless you all this Christmas and be with you throughout the new year.
“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8.12