Most people are approaching the end of this year with a great sense of relief.
The challenges of 2020 have been exhausting for all of us, and have really worn us down. This tiredness is something of a paradox, because lockdown meant that many of the things that usually keep us busy were cancelled. We’ve had much less activity than in a normal year, but we’re feeling like it’s been more demanding than as if we had been busy and occupied!
I think there are two main reasons for this tiredness. First, we used a lot of time and energy dealing with the ongoing uncertainty, and with the many changes in the way that we did normal activities, like work, education, shopping, church, exercise and socialising.
Second, we were cut off from some of the interactions that are most life-giving, uplifting and energising for us: meeting in person with family, friends, our parish community, and other social groups. The impact of missing out on these times that we spend in person with others is a valuable reminder of just how important this dimension of life is, and how much priority we need to give to ensuring that we maintain these connections.
Looking back on the year, it is important to give thanks for the ways in which we have been supported and helped by others: the generosity and patience in families who were spending much more time together than they were used to; the efforts of parishes to maintain connection and encouragement for one another through the internet, phone calls and letter box drops; family and friends working out how to use computers and smartphones so they could do video calls together.
While none of us would have chosen for a year like this, and each of us has experienced significant hardships, it is also good to appreciate and give thanks for the blessings that have been part of this time. For some, that might be insights into what is most important and energising for us; for others, it might be appreciating how much we rely on the support and loyalty of family and friends. For all of us, it has included learning how to adapt when the plans that we have made are upended.
At Christmas, we celebrate Jesus as the light who comes in our darkness. This year, perhaps more than ever, we are aware of how much we need that light. And, as the shadow that has been cast on our year starts to lift, we are mindful of people in other parts of the world, who are entering winter with the threat of the pandemic still weighing heavily on them.
In our Christmas liturgies and family festivities, we will celebrate that in Jesus’ birth, God entered fully into our human experience as Emmanuel: ‘God with us’. Let us give thanks for the ways God has been present with us through this year, staying faithful to his promise that he will bring light in our darkness.
Bishop Shane Mackinlay, Christmas 2020