Just before Christmas I took my wife and children out for a walk on the beach near our home and as a treat bought ice creams for everyone. We were casually walking along the seafront and before my wife had a chance to have a lick of her chocolate ice cream a seagull dive bombed her and took the ice cream clean from her hand into the air and unceremoniously dumped it in the gutter. Sharon was dismayed, embarrassed and angry. Just before she had begun to enjoy her ice cream it had been stolen from her.
Perhaps that’s how many of us feel about 2020. Just as it was getting going it was stolen from us. For some it has meant real loss; the death of loved ones, businesses failing, people being made redundant, the sadness of being unable to embrace loved ones. We have all felt loss and grief but some to a greater extent than others.
Many have experienced that continual loss and disappointment over Christmas, being unable to meet with family and the increasing rise in Covid infections and escalating hospital admissions. Even as I write this, news of another national lockdown is coming through.
We could be very depressed about 2021.
I have found, over the years, the days between Christmas and New Year to be a natural point of reflection for the year gone. There is for a me a blend of waiting and hoping. It’s a theme that runs through the Psalms. For example, Psalm 130:5 “I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope.” Those of us who are Jesus followers can dig deep into a waiting that is imbued with hope. Hope-filled waiting is ungirded by the gift of Emmanuel. God has come to us – pitched his tent amongst us. He is not distant, dislocated or removed from our fear, suffering, loss and pain.
The God of compassion (literally to suffer with) whispers to the depth of our hearts that despite the bleakness we are not alone.
The Japanese theologian Kazoh Kitamora writing in 1946 in the wake of the utter devastation in Hiroshima and Nagasaki wrote, “is there a more astonishing miracle in the world than that God embraces our broken reality?”
We too can look to the horizon and be assured that we are not forsaken. Emmanuel has come to us again…