Do not remember the former things,
or consider the things of old.
I am about to do a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
(Isaiah 43: 18-19)
The biggest question of the week in the news is not, 'Will President Trump concede to Joe Biden in the US elections', or 'Will we emerge in 2021 with a deal with Europe?', or even 'When will that third vaccine be available?' but....... 'Will Christmas happen?' Even if we have to have twenty five days of lockdown afterwards, please give us an unrestricted five days to celebrate, demand the public - well some of them anyway. What drives this strength of feeling? I wonder if it is the power of traditions.
Psychologist, Saul Levine writes 'When traditions take place......, they bring predictability and constancy to our lives. In addition to the nurturance and pleasure of communing, they help remove us, at least temporarily, from the cacophony of the outside world. We get reassurance that we will indeed be alright.' Traditions bring us together, provide familiarity and normality (and how we need that this year) and help us escape our personal world to focus on something greater and bigger.
If that is right then it's totally understandable that this year will be challenging. It is hard for us as a church family to imagine not singing carols together; not packed in, side by side to hear the choir, listen to the brass ensemble or watch children run manically and excitedly around the church building. Familiarity and normality will be squeezed; coming together will be restricted; BUT focusing on something greater and bigger - now there is no legislation in the world that will stop us doing that!
There will be many services we will be able to have - please read on to see all that's going on at church, online and out in the community. Admittedly not quite the same as usual, but still with the chance to worship God and celebrate again the most extraordinary story in human history - that God would become human and share His life with us.
But I don't want us to look back at this Christmas as being the 'off' one. God reminds us in the verse from Isaiah that He is always at work, and He is doing a 'new thing'. Rather than looking back with sadness at Christmases past, we are called to look for God in this one. Carol singers will be going out and singing all round town in the weeks coming up to Christmas; we will host up to 600 people at Meadowbank for a carol concert and on Christmas Eve we will invite the whole community to come to church for a walkabout nativity. New things that we pray will not only remind us of the greatness and bigness of God but also bring in many who don't know Him. At a time when joy and hope are light on the ground, God is about to do a new thing in our midst and so we can pray and rejoice.
And who knows, maybe the 'new things' of Christmas 2020 might just be traditions for Christmas 2021!