Doing the right thing is often the hardest thing

Doing the right thing is often the hardest thing. Last Saturday’s stark televised announcement to the nation by the Prime Minister sent the Christmas plans of millions across the country into disarray. It cannot have been an easy decision to take, and it will not be any easier for us to follow the rules, and for many to spend this Christmas apart as a result. Yet, with infection rates rising alarmingly, and our hospitals once again feeling the strain at what is their busiest period of the year in normal times – if we can even remember those – we must all make sacrifices to protect the people we love, and the most vulnerable in our society, as we continue to fight this lethal virus. 

It will be the first ever year that my children will not be spending Christmas with us. They will be with other people, they will be well-fed, they will be fine. It is not what they or we planned, of course. Others are much less fortunate. Christmas, for all its joy and hope, can be the loneliest of times for those without families, friends, a home, or a support bubble. For all of the scare stories of empty supermarket shelves and Christmas being cancelled, more than ever this is a time to look out for others, not just ourselves.

This is usually a time of comfort, and we have all been taking heart from those traditions which seem to have arrived even earlier in 2020, to offset how we have been feeling. Christmas trees going up, festive food, seasonal music on the radio, favourite television programmes – all reassuring, welcome comforts that nonetheless may seem a little hollower this year. It feels that it may take more than home comforts as we find ourselves in the middle of a crisis which has taken our breath away, which has taken away our ability to see and hug those we love, which has taken away our freedom to sing, and which has taken away lives, health, jobs, financial security.

Throughout this situation, our first priority as a church has been caring for our communities, offering light in dark times. I have seen what hope looks like in my own Diocese of London, and I know it has been mirrored right across the country. Earlier in the year, when our church buildings were closed, hope looked like St Dionis in Parsons Green, where volunteers were based, busily creating PPE packs for NHS workers. In the run up to Christmas, hope has looked like St Mary Hornsey Rise, busily preparing hampers for local residents, or like St Cuthbert’s in North Wembley, where their Memory Café has been helping to relieve the loneliness suffered by older people, caused by poor memory and social separation.

This year will have been difficult for us in so many ways. As Christians, we know that, into a world full of suffering, God chose to come and live among us in the form of a newborn child, and that sustains us. Now hope is not about optimism or about short lived happiness, it is about a deeper inner peace which endures in the dark places of our lives. The Christmas Story does not deny the difficult times, but God offers us comfort and hope right at the heart of them. As Archbishop Desmond Tutu, in an Advent message to the Church in the Province of South Africa, said, “It was precisely in the darkness, where it looks like there was no way forward, that the light which lightens everyone came into the world.”

There is more than a glimmer of hope on the horizon. Ten months ago, we did not truly understand the unique threat we faced. We struggled to tend to the sick, to protect the vulnerable. We struggled for answers – there was no end in sight. The start of the vaccination programme now means that we can go into a new year with fresh optimism, even if our daily lives will have to remain changed for some time to come.

We are no strangers to the light of comfort and hope at Christmas. This year, that light shines even brighter, amidst the darkness we face.

About Sarah Mullally

If you wanted a blog run by an experienced blogger look elsewhere - I am a beginner. I am a mum, Bishop, Dame and poor potter - welcome.
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