“A thrill of hope, a weary world rejoices”

There are two types of people: those who won’t play Christmas music until December and those who are wrong…

Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas; getting together with the family, giving and receiving presents, candlelit carol services, not batting an eyelid when the kids have a breakfast of cold potatoes and Maltesers.

What I don’t like is the elongated build-up which tells me daily that I still have so much to plan for and prepare for this special season. If I start planning too early, by the time we get to mid-December I’m feeling Christmas-fatigue and I find myself disinterested in celebrating the real reason for the season – the birth of Christ.

As one Instagram post put it:

“…it’s almost time to switch from my everyday anxiety to my fancy Christmas anxiety.”

Christmas could look very different this year for most of us. Maybe it will be our first Christmas without a particular loved-one. Maybe our financial situation has changed as a result of this pandemic and we need to lower the expectations of what we can give and receive. Maybe we are just lacking the motivation to shift gear and celebrate anything. Maybe the family tensions Christmas can bring will be amplified by all of the above.

Why should we look forward to a week when we can stay at home, eat too much and binge-watch Netflix when we’ve already had nine months of doing that without it feeling anything like a celebration?

But maybe we have understood Christmas backwards. The things that we look forward to which either feel out of reach or are too much like the rest of 2020, are a far cry from the original story we supposedly commemorate.

The story where God leaves his heavenly realm and enters ours. He becomes the poorest of the poor, the weakest of the weak, born into, by first century cultural norms, a scandalous family. It’s a story where the marginalised, poor and world-weary are honoured as they witness a very special birth. It’s a story stripped of commercialism, indulgence and excess (apart from an excess of singing angels!). It’s a story of simple hope with the incarnation of the rescuer meeting those who need rescuing.

So, I’m looking forward to Christmas and the opportunity to maybe simplify things a bit this year. Whether we get to celebrate in style or not in this ever-changing landscape of normality, the story of hope remains the same.

As the words of my favourite carol say:

“A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!
O night divine, the night when Christ was born.”

Just don’t play it before December.

By Tiffany Atkins

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