It is hard to muster up excitement for a second pandemic Christmas, as a new virulent variant rages through our world. Omicron is infecting people at an alarming rate and threatens to destroy our celebrations. Christmas cancellations are piling up quickly as families uninvite their relatives for dinner, as planned vacations are set aside, as hospitals prepare for a surge, as lockdowns are renewed, as people clamour for scarce rapid tests and wait days for PCR results, as thousands demand booster shots… and on and on. One Toronto Star writer stated a few days ago, “It’s beginning to look a lot like chaos.”
The Church steps into the chaos and offers the story of the Incarnation: God among us. But this year, because of the surge of COVID-19’s newest variant, many of us must pare back our offerings, if we are going to support the health and welfare of the members of our congregations. So, with sadness and a heavy sense of responsibility, I made the decision to significantly alter our plans for Christmas worship at Christ Church:
- The 7 pm Christmas Eve Service is cancelled
- The 9 pm Christmas Eve Service will be in-person and live-streamed. Limited number of seats available and vaccination certificate is needed.
- The 9 am Christmas Day Service is being moved from in-person to Zoom
- The 9:15 am Sunday Service on December 26th (Boxing Day) is being moved from in-person to Zoom
- The choir will not be restarting this Christmas, but we will have all our favourite carols from the leads and organist.
- The Wednesday morning eucharist has been halted, indefinitely.
I began this letter by stating that it is difficult to get excited about a second pandemic Christmas, but that does not have to be true. Christmas calls us to a joy that is not dependent on who sits at our dinner table. We have all experienced tragedy, or unhappiness, sadness, or loss, but despite those painful experiences, the Church cannot help but rejoice at Christmas.
Why? Why does this season infuse us with joy even if we do not feel like rejoicing? We rejoice at Christmas because of the hope that this event – the Incarnation – engenders in us. In fact, the Word made flesh and dwelling among us, defies our brokenness and states boldly that Christian joy is always available to us. “In the worst possible times, when things have never been so bad for folks – when people are at the end of their ropes”, when families stagger to recover from homes broken apart by job loss, divorce, or death; when people we know and love are diagnosed with cancer, Alzheimer’s, heart disease; when a pandemic threatens the welfare of our spiritual, emotional and psychological lives, “when things are at the very bottom and the world is a cold and lonely place, we might, if we listen hard, hear the cry of the Christ child.” (From My Heart is Ready, John Andrew).
That cry breaks through all the noise and sadness of our lives, introducing us to sheer joy: the Person of Jesus Christ. I pray that Christmas will break through into your hearts and homes this year.
Blessings to you and your families this Christmas,