Check-in time! No, you’re not flying anywhere, not yet anyway, I mean an emotional, spiritual check-in. How are you? For those of you who have put up your Christmas trees, has it worked? Have the tinsel and baubles banished the COVID blues from your house, has the comfort of Christmas removed the sense of uncertainty and confusion from your mind? If it has – let me know, and I will get a tree up immediately. As a number of you may know, I am not a massive fan of Christmas hype but even I have not truck with those wishing to hasten feelings of Christmas warmth and familiarity this year. For those without the solidity of faith or the repetition of religious practice a Christmas tree is probably the only sign of a normal world at the moment. In the midst of this crisis it stands for love, family, hope, familiarity and a sense that life is ok.
It seems that society is becoming fragmented in a new way, new worlds are emerging, the world of those with security and those without it. COVID and lockdown has created a new divide between the haves and have nots. The haves are those with an income, not necessarily with a job but an income. Those in Care Work or who work in the State Sector are safe, those who receive a State Pension are too. Understandably those in these groups are more in favour of lockdown, while financially secure, they are more at risk from the virus, they are more exposed and really have little choice over it. They have to work whether they like it or not. The other group who are the ‘non-essential’ workers, I come into that category. The ‘non-essentials’ are the hairdressers, beauticians, gym staff, flight attendants, hospitality and events workers. These are the people who when we are locked down have no work and for some, not all, no work means no money. Many of them would bite off your hand to be working. It seems that ‘non-essential’ covers all the things we use to make life worth living, while the ‘essential’ sector provide us with the means to live, education, health and security. This divide is confusing because it is new, and it tests values in a way not seen before. No one wants to see their Gran die but no one wants to see destitute families struggling to get by either, who comes first?
Normally the year has a rhythm and routine, for many here in the parish it is set by the school term by the structure of holidays. This year like none any of us can remember has had no structure, rhythm or routine. Except for those glorious sunny days of Lockdown 1 we have been living an almost weekly existence, listening for news, awaiting changing regulations, finding things incomprehensible. Even Christmas, which is a straightforward 4 days, seems confusing; who visits and who doesn’t? We are surrounded by change and flux like never before, new social tensions are emerging and we don’t really know what the new year will bring, we are all hopeful though. Maybe a Christmas tree does help, as I say, let me know! But I think each of us has to dig deeper, we need more than a bauble, we need Jesus.
This year my rhythm and routine of prayer has been trashed. I am very privileged to live with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and have a daily life of prayer. But normally I would have made an annual retreat and a monthly day of prayer. The retreat hasn’t happened and since March the prayer days have not taken place. At a time when I need it most my opportunity for spiritual renewal has been impaired. I do not think I am alone. We all need spiritual renewal at this time, yet you have all been locked out of church for months this year. I would like to gently challenge you to make this Advent a time of spiritual renewal for you and your family. Why not make a concerted effort to have a prayer time each day, the same time can work well? Jesus is our rock, although all around us is shifting, he remains a loving constant. It is God who brings meaning to our lives, lean on him now, dig deep to encounter him and allow this Christmas to be a time where his light shines brightly in your life!