In this, our final Sanctuary email for the year, I invited one of our recent high school graduates, Ellen, to reflect. She writes:
As a (younger) kid I remember waiting eagerly all year for the Christmas Eve service at my church, as it meant I had a chance to stay up late and gorge myself on Christmas treats, getting home after midnight and barely sleeping until I remembered it was Christmas and thus obviously time for presents! This year is similar except instead of staying up late, I’m looking forward to the chance to sleep in, spend a relatively quiet Christmas with family I haven’t seen enough and celebrate an end of sorts to a crazy year.
It’s tempting to fall for the delusion that next year everything will work itself out and we’ll return to some kind of “normal” but when many of us are spending Christmas in hospital waiting rooms or new houses that are not yet comfortable, as well as grieving and worried for friends and family out of reach, it’s hard to believe in any magical quick fix.
When Mary and Joseph travelled back to Bethlehem, following government orders to be counted in the census, they were refused accommodation and instead found shelter in an unlikely place. It was in a dark and dusty stable surrounded by animals that their child Jesus (or Joshua) was born and welcomed by strangers. Similarly, we too have followed government directives and found ourselves in unexpected situations and with friends we may not have found without the necessity of online worship. And we have survived, learned, and grown in every sense.
Worshipping with people who would not normally be able to attend physical church, including people in other locations and in hospital, as well as with those interacting with Sanctuary for the first time, has been one of my favourite outcomes of the lockdowns and other disruptions to our experience of church, and in the new season I’m looking forward to wherever Sanctuary is headed.
Christmas is always a difficult time of year to navigate between hosting, travelling, seeing family, gift giving and all the other joys of December. That being said, for many this Christmas signals a brief respite from the incessant troubles this year has brought and also the last of this years’ services at Sanctuary. We can only pray for guidance throughout the coming year, where everything seems a little up in the air and not yet quite real.
Despite everything, I’m glad we’ve made it this far and I’m holding onto the slightly naïve hope that “If we make it through December, we’ll be fine” as the song goes. And as the advent season comes to an end, I pray for hope, peace, joy, and love to remain with you all.
Thanks, Ellen! Sanctuary shuts down from 25 December until 17 January. Our next email will be on 19 January; after Christmas Eve, our next service will be on 24 January. Catch you then! Image shows a detail from The Nativity, illustrated by Julie Vivas. If you don’t have a copy of this most human rendition of the story, with a heavily pregnant Mary and a ragtag Gabriel wearing clodhopping boots, do yourself a favour and order it immediately.
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