I wonder how many of you still have Christmas decorations up and signs of continuing festivities… It often surprises me how many people, having spent Christmas Day and Boxing Day in full celebration, quickly speak of Christmas having passed after this point. But the day after Boxing Day is only DAY 3 of the twelve days of Christmas!
While a lot of people put their decorations up at the beginning of Advent, the Church actually begins to celebrate the Nativity of our Lord weeks later, and only at this point change the altar frontals from purple to white or gold – the colours of celebration. So, while we waited, others ‘celebrated’, and when we finally celebrate, others have finished and have begun to move on and face the new year ahead. What can we learn here? I think there’s something in the fact that the twelve days of Christmas also span the beginning of a new year. The festive joy of celebrating the Word becoming flesh, who was there in the beginning of all creation, carries on as we approach a whole new year, and there’s a message here. At Christmas, we are not only celebrating the birth of Christ as an event, we are also celebrating the effect and impact this makes on our everyday lives. We celebrate the difference that having God among us actually makes. Whether we look back and review the previous year, and think of times of hope and courage, of fruitfulness and joy, or boldly look at the year ahead, and think of the things we hope for – the news that God is with us, Emmanuel, is at the centre of this reflecting. In this way, the hope we articulated in Advent with all the church – past and present, and the joy of the angels and shepherds that we share in the Christmas season, can take us into a fresh new year in a different way, a way that is more trusting, hopeful, and joyful; for we continue to celebrate that God is with us as we begin a new year. This joyfulness is the beginning of a new year. And we can begin a new year with hope because God has come among us. God’s grace and light have come into the world in a new way, bringing a new setting and dimension to our hopes and goals.
As you begin this new year, I pray it is in the light and hope we have in the knowledge that God is with us.
With every blessing
Vicar of Ampleforth with Oswaldkirk, Gilling East and Stonegrave