This months Blog is by Grace, our Chaplain here at YMCA Burton.
As I drive around doing my rounds as a chaplain, I ask myself, what am I expecting or looking for this Christmas? Or perhaps, I am not looking for anything or even expecting anything at all. As I was just beginning to relax, omicron has started to loom ahead threatening my expectations of a restful Christmas. I am left in quandary again. This pandemic has more than pushed me out of my comfort zone into this land of unpredictable extraordinaire!
I wonder, if you remember the Christmas story about the three wise kings who came to worship the infant Lord Jesus. They went to the palace of King Herod first, expecting to find the baby there but to their dismay, they did not and continued to follow the star which led them to the humble manger where they found the baby Jesus. The three wise men presented their gifts of gold, myrrh and frankincense and having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.
I have often wondered how they must have felt when they were told not to go back the way they came. They would’ve planned their return route, would have packed enough food for their journey back, probably would have planned their stopping points, would have arranged to meet people on the way, would have meticulously organised the trip for themselves and their entourage, numerous animals, servants, friends and who knows many other things they would have had to carry, when travelling long distances in those days.
I remember when my daughter was a toddler and we had to travel long distances. We had to pack so many things. I remember having to write lists after lists and more lists! The to-do lists were innumerable and sometimes the stress and challenge of planning and packing for the journey outweighed the joy of the journey. And many a time I forgot the joy of the destination!
Going back to the wise men again, I often wonder how they must have felt when they were told they had to change their route for their return journey home. If it was me, I would’ve been upset, angry and grumpy. I do not like changes at the last minute, given the amount of time that goes on towards planning and preparations for a journey. I know we will never understand how they felt, but one thing the Bible makes very clear, is that, they were overjoyed when they saw baby Jesus wrapped up in swaddling clothes and offered gifts of gold, myrrh and frankincense. I wonder, if the joy of seeing baby Jesus took their resentment and anger away? They then went home delighted, even when their plans had been disrupted and had to plan a new route. One look at the child changed their course of journey, destination and outlook in life forever. What was so special and still is so special about this baby Jesus, I ask myself?
These last two years of pandemic has thrown everything into chaos. Holidays, weddings, big events, get-togethers, parties and celebrations of every kind. Almost everything has gone awry. It has made me rather angry at the many cancellations of many a celebration. The rather uncertain news of everyday, stops us from making plans and many a time we have to cancel the very plans which we have made tentatively given the circumstances we live in today.
So, what are your expectations this Christmas? Have you made any plans? Will our plans be changed again at the last minute? None of us know. But I am certain of something. I believe, these last two years of pandemic has changed me. I certainly have not become the flexible, wise, kind- hearted magi but somewhere along the line, something has happened. As the pandemic raged, I saw what the magi would have seen in the face of baby Jesus…Peace, strength, joy, hope, resilience, faith and courage in the faces of ordinary people like you and me. The magi saw something powerful in the vulnerable babe lying in the manger amongst cows, goats, pigs and muck.
Is it true when we are most vulnerable or when we are at our weakest point, we see the strength and power of God at work? A certain change has come about in me somehow and I am prepared to make plans, plan get-togethers, organise events, even if I have to change or re-organise events at the last minute, it does not matter.
Is this faith? Is this what Christmas is all about? Is this the spirit of Christmas? What has brought this change in me? Could it be the pandemic that has changed me? Have I seen and experienced the love of God and seen Christ in action more than I have ever done before? Perhaps, the pandemic has done a lot of good after all.
Someone has said, “The meaning of Christmas is the idea that Christmas has meaning and that we can make that meaning into whatever we want”
I have two Christmas to – do lists this year, mine and a gift from my friend and I hope to follow both. And I also hope that you will continue to make and follow your to-do list this Christmas too, whether we get to do everything or not. Follow your dreams, keep making plans, gather up your to- do lists.
Wishing you a blessed Christmas and a wonderful New Year 2022.