The Rev Dr Tom McKnight, the President of the Methodist Church in Ireland has issued this Christmas message in which takes us through the darkness which came with Covid 19 on into a hope-filled New Year.
He writes: “Even for those who deny its true meaning, Christmas is different from other times of the year. Decorated trees, nativity plays, colourful lights, singing carols and other Christmas songs, opening Advent calendars, sending cards, giving gifts – these are all reserved for a time beginning at some point after Halloween and rapidly expanding once December arrives. Some people love it. Others cannot wait until things return to “normal”.
Yet because of Covid-19, the year 2020 has also been different from other years.
“It began with reports of a new virus in China. By March, lockdown came, along with sickness and death. November brought the so-called “second wave”, but also with promising news regarding vaccines. Few people have loved 2020. All cannot wait until things return to normal.
“As I said in a recent address, the Covid-19 pandemic has changed everything. It has caused so many deaths, on this island – and these islands, in Europe, in my home country of the USA, and throughout the world. It has taught us that death is real and life is uncertain.
“We think of the sadness of so many who have died alone in hospitals or care homes, with families unable to be with them even at the end. We think of the pressure on members of the health service. We think of funerals with few mourners allowed to attend, and with those who do attend unable to embrace. We think of education disrupted because of school closures earlier in the year. We think of the lonely and the isolated. We think of the poor and disadvantaged, who seem to have been hit the hardest.
And yet we can acknowledge that good can come out of this experience. We have learned that even when our church buildings are closed, Christ is still with us. We have discovered new ways of worshipping using technology not available a generation ago. And we have learned that sometimes the best way to show our love is to keep socially distant.
“And so, at Christmas, as we remember the birth of our Saviour Jesus – the eternal Word becoming a human being – I want to say thank you: Thank you to medical staff and other key workers. Thank you to those who have provided guidance and help. And, especially, thank you to our local churches for continuing your witness during these difficult times.
“Let me end with a note of hope: hope that the new vaccines will be effective in ending the pandemic, hope that we will more greatly appreciate every day and every breath, hope that, from all that we have gone through, we will learn how better to serve Christ and each other.
May God bless you this Christmas. And may 2021 be different from 2020.”
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