There is something I have only really just noticed which is so very very obvious that my only response to it can be an ‘Of Course’ with a gravity defying number of exclamation marks.
A couple of weeks ago (12.-16.11.) was the Hindu festival of Diwali. It’s a Festival of Light (lit. ‘rows of lighted lamps’) which given the nights drawing in, is not surprising. Living in northern Britain for many years this is one festival I know more of than others.
The BBC News during these days has focused exclusively on the Covid-19 angle. What felt different this year, what Covid-19 robbed us of….. – there was only one word: family. Such interviews and reports that came in, showed traditions being kept or adapted, but it was the usually ‘wider and multi-generational family coming together’ that was missing, Grandparents joining only on Skype. Cousins missed altogether….
This week the news stories from USA channels and others, have shown very long lines/ queues of cars as people have had themselves ‘tested’ before being able to go join family for Thanksgiving. A year ago , if asked, it would have seemed unimaginable for Americans to not go ‘home’ or be able to join up with family for Thanksgiving.
Here in Europe much of the lockdown timescale is now being negotiated around the idea that if we observe lockdown now, we can all meet up with family over Christmas. The phrase that has been used on ZDF is exactly that – ‘it is unimaginable for families and grandparents not to celebrate Christmas together’. Advent and Christmas are of course also Festivals of Light – the former announcing and marking time for the latter.
And for the sake of completion in amid those is another Festival of Light – the Jewish Festival of Channuka (10.-18.12.) and that also is a festival celebrated in the home, families gathering around candles, or more correctly oil lamps, recounting the story of the festival’s origin.
My aha moment is the centrality of family in all of these.
I have always been excited about what these festivals share and remember working with school children on related projects, and with religious leaders across a community as we shared what we could of each others’ festivals at least at this time of year where in the northern hemisphere the nights draw in. What was obvious to me but not so visible was the place of family. What made the central role of family visible this winter is the being denied access to it.
So here is another aha moment – how many of us take families and other things in life (health ?) for granted until they are taken from us however temporarily.
A timely reminder that everything is a gift.
That we might want to focus these coming weeks a little more than usual on making sure members of our families do not feel taken for granted but are indeed treasured.
And indeed as a world-wide, cross-generational Church Family to pray:
- for those who’ve ‘lost’ family members this year
- for those who cannot travel to see family for Thanksgiving / Channuka / Christmas
- for those who have no family at all
- for those whose families have split or broken especially recently
Our Advent – Christmas – Epiphany schedule is now online. The individual events will go live on the appropriate day. Please share the flier below with friends and family via any means you wish to encourage them to join with us.