Rector's Blog

Christmas 2021

Isaiah 9:2

This year, after continuing to live through the pandemic – sometimes quite frankly feeling as if we were staggering through, and after a year which began with our churches being closed, our churchwardens decided that we would hold a Christmas Tree festival. We have held them in the past but we do not hold them every year. They are an awful lot of work both organisationally and physically to set up. However, our wardens were adamant – this year we needed a festival!  

The theme we chose for the festival was Light in the darkness – taken from the quotation from the book of Isaiah Chapter 9 v2 – “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone”.  I felt we all had been living in a time of darkness, bereavements and in some cases serious illness, separation from family and friends, and anxiety caused not only by the actual virus but what it did to livelihoods. 

Our village has really come together to make this festival happen.  Many people, local organisations and businesses have sponsored trees: for a full list of sponsors, please see the end of this page.

All the trees are different. They all interpret the theme differently – our Rainbows and Brownies decorated theirs with handmade robins. Robins are almost the only bird which sings during the winter.  Their lovely birdsong brings us cheer and light up the winter months.  The Tailors decorated their trees with tiny outfits – black at the bottom, then grey and then hey presto white and light at the top!

But I suppose the question we are all asking ourselves is where on that continuum from dark to light do we feel we are now? We were hoping we were over the worst and then Omicrom appeared.  All of us are tired and weary and some of us, careworkers, health workers, teachers, are exhausted.

What do we feel this Christmas? Are we still living in the dark?

We come back to the story of the first Christmas told to us in the Gospels of Luke and Matthew.  There is no doubt that the Bible never shies away from describing this world as it really is.  The story is not the sugary version we sometimes see on our Christmas cards.  

Mary and Joseph trudge through the streets of Bethlehem trying to find somewhere to stay.  They both know that the baby will be born soon.  Finally they find an outhouse. The shepherds who come to the stable have difficult lives.  Living and caring for their flock on the hillsides.  The Magi visit the Christ child and their interaction with Herod leads to him launching a reign of terror on the children of Jerusalem and Mary and Joseph flee with their baby to Egypt. The very gifts that the Magi bring a hint that this newborn child is destined to suffer and die on the Cross for  one of the gifts is myrrh, traditionally used in embalming. The verse from We Three Kings goes “Myrrh is mine; its bitter perfume/Breathes a life of gathering gloom/Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying/Sealed in a stone cold tomb.”

However familiar the Nativity Gospel passages may seem  when we read them with fresh eyes we cannot but see that the narratives include some very dark passages and the whole story is set in a country living under the rule of the Roman Empire.

But this is still Good News. It is light shining in the darkness.  This story is real.  It does not pretend the world is something that it is not. It’s not saying baby Jesus arrives and they all live happily after.  What this story tells me is that in the coming of Jesus, however messy and unsatisfactory the world is, however far from perfect,  Jesus’ birth gives us life and new hope. In the words of the poet Christina Rosetti:

Love came down at Christmas,Love all lovely, Love Divine,

Love was born at Christmas,

Star and Angels gave the sign.

God came down at Christmas and God’s totally accepting sacrificial love and how we are called to mirror  that in the way we live our lives is the light in the darkness.

Madeleine L’Engle’s poem speaks of this.  Christ is our Light in the darkness – so now is the time, even in the middle of a spike in the pandemic, to rejoice.

First Coming

He did not wait till the world was ready,
till men and nations were at peace.
He came when the Heavens were unsteady,
and prisoners cried out for release.

He did not wait for the perfect time.
He came when the need was deep and great.
He dined with sinners in all their grime,
turned water into wine. He did not wait

till hearts were pure. In joy he came
to a tarnished world of sin and doubt.
To a world like ours, of anguished shame
he came, and his Light would not go out.

He came to a world which did not mesh,
to heal its tangles, shield its scorn.
In the mystery of the Word made Flesh
the Maker of the stars was born.

We cannot wait till the world is sane
to raise our songs with joyful voice,
for to share our grief, to touch our pain,
He came with Love: Rejoice! Rejoice!

-Madeleine L’Engle, from The Ordering of Love: The New and Collected Poems of Madeleine L’Engle

Our Christmas trees Kindly sponsored by:
Bank BeautyCedar House Flowers
4th Hawarden BrowniesHawarden Rainbows and 3rd Hawarden Brownies
Hawarden Camera ClubHawarden Guides
Hawarden Mothers UnionHawarden Post Office
Hawarden RotaryHawarden WI
Serenity Nails and BeautySt Deiniol’s clergy
St Deiniol’s Thursday Morning GroupSophisticut
The Village Tailors