I hope everyone is keeping well and safe.
It has been a strange Advent, rather than growing in anticipation of the great feast it seems to be more a sense of growing anxiety. Once again this year it may not be the Christmas we were expecting or the Christmas we were wanting, but it is still Christmas. Grand plans of parties and gatherings are on hold again this year and yet the Christ will still be born. I’m reminded of the carol ‘Joy to the world’. It might seem that there is little joy to be had amidst the resurgence of Covid with the threat of Omicron hanging over us like the sword of Damocles but perhaps that is because we have misunderstood the word ‘Joy’.
We often think of joy as happiness, but happiness is about circumstance, it’s about the moment and lasts but for a season. Joy is something else entirely. Joy is about knowing God and the peace and hope that we have even when things seem bleak and at their worst. Joy is of the heart and brings us through hard times. When we sing Joy to the World! The Lord is come, Let earth receive her King! Let every heart prepare Him room and heaven and nature sing… these words take us to a manger, to the creator of the world being born in time in lowly poverty, in a time of struggle and strife. That child before he is 2 years old will flee as a refugee from persecution as Jerusalem weeps for Holy Innocents who died in the attempt to snuff out the light of the world. Joy to the world was not about everything suddenly being perfect, but that God is among us living through the hardships and trials with us and through the struggles he redeems us all and has begun the building of his Kingdom. This is the Joy we celebrate even through the hardships we have all faced over the last 2 years and continue to face in the coming weeks, that God is with us through it all, sharing our burdens and disappointments, and showing us that despite them and through them good things are still happening. We are caring for each other, we are putting health and wellbeing before profit and greed, we are returning to community and the inter-dependance we have on each other and all of creation.
So my prayer for each and everyone of us this Christmas is that we can come to that manger, humbled that our God should be born in such a way, that God incarnate shone his light for those who dwelt in darkness in ancient Israel and shines his light today for all who dwell in darkness so that we might find the peace and Joy that is found in the simplicity in which God broke into this world.
For myself I am looking forward to our Christmas celebrations which will go ahead as planned. It is an immense privilege to celebrate our God’s Birth in so many different ways in all our ancient places of worship.
I’ll be starting my evening tomorrow in Llanynys, singing ancient carols by candlelight in the same way as it has been done for 1,500 years or more. Then something new for me, Christingles (I’ve never been to a Christingle before!), outside in Llanbedr where the fairy lights will blend with the starlight (it’s looking lovely under the yew tree, picture attached), then on to Llangynhafal for a (not quite) midnight Mass at 9pm before an actual Midnight Mass in Llanarmon. My colleagues have similar plans in our other churches and it’s fabulous to see the breadth of what we can offer to our communities. I hope you’ve all got your plans ready, and while yes we need to be wearing a mask and keeping our social distancing, we also need to be prepared, as that carol tells us, let every heart prepare Him room so that with heaven and nature we can sing with gusto Joy to the World! The Lord is Come!
As we move on into the new year we will be re-introducing some measures to keep us all safe in line with guidance and regulations for our churches. We’ll be more formal and deliberate in our social distancing, keeping every other pew empty. We also need to return to reserving a pew for worship. The website has been set up again for taking bookings as we did before. There are 2 main reasons for doing this, firstly, especially for some of our smaller churches, it allows us to plan seating and means we won’t have to turn anyone away because of space. Secondly, for track and trace purposes. If we are contacted by track and trace I can access the Eventbrite system from wherever I am meaning I don’t have to run around the Mission Area searching for bits of paper This greatly reduces both my workload and my anxiety levels so please do use the system. If you struggle or don’t have internet to use the system then please just make a quick phone call to your church warden or any of the clergy and we’ll get you booked in, it only takes a couple of minutes but makes a huge difference as the clergy are under pressure to find ways of keeping our churches open safely.
The newsletter attached has 3 sets of readings to cover the next 3 days. Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and St Stephens Day. If you’re printing out for services you can print the 1st page and the relevant page for the readings you need.
Wishing you all peaceful and spirit filled Christmas, Nadolig Llawen!
Mission Area Leader of Dyffryn Clwyd www.DyffrynClwyd.Co.Uk