The Christmas love letter
When was the last time you received a love letter? I guess that these days they come in all shapes and sizes and social media manifestations. Often these types of letters are treasures poured over and preserved as it crystallises in one moment a significant communication from the one we love and the one who loves us.
Love letters have many forms: a photo, a piece of poetry, a shared symbol that has a shared meaning for each person involved, and just plain prose. Most often these are treasured no matter in what form they might come. This seems to be more so with COVID allowing less personal contact than usual. We’ve had to learn to treasure and savour the good, having something to look at helps this to be so.
When I think of that which we celebrate at Christmas, I think of a great love letter that God has sent to us. It is a love letter that took centuries to finally fulfil, years in the making, where God has shown God’s faithfulness in fulfilling his promise, and a love letter that is eternal, ever faithful. The promised of ages, has arrived, the promise has been kept, the promise endures.
And best of all this is not some new doctrine or ideology, not some passing fad, but rather love itself in the person of Jesus Christ, a small defenceless baby born in a feed trough, and yet at the same time, as we recently celebrated, the King of the Universe.
One of the enduring qualities of a love letter is that it is something we can pull out time and again and re-read it. When times are not so pleasant; when things are tougher than they need to be, having a safe and encouraging space to go to, such as re-reading a love letter is most welcoming. Maybe that is the allure of Christmas cards themselves?
For all of us 2021 has been an indifferent year. Times of hope and times of uncertainty mixed together in unequal quantities. As we come towards its end we celebrate Christmas, and carefully and diligently re-read this love letter from God to humanity in general and to each of us in particular.
We, like the chosen people, have been waiting, hoping that someday soon the pandemic will be over. Longing for the day when masks and vaccines will not be necessary. Longing for the light to shine in the darkness and latent anxiety and uncertainty that is never far from the surface of our lives.
And then into this uncertainty, once again, as it does each year, comes Advent and Christmas. A reminder that the kind of God we have is a God who first comes to us; a God who is not only God for us, but God with us; a God who reminds us that we are not alone. The Christmas love letter assures us that this is true not simply when we first read it but it is true each time that we read it.
This year we have been celebrating the Year of St Joseph, that gentle and ardent protector, as Pope Francis often describes his role. In the Gospels there is not a recorded word attributed to St Joseph. This doesn’t mean that he has nothing to say, but rather he says it in a different way. In most love letters the voice of the sender is silent, it is the voice of the reader that brings the written word to life, allows the communication to take on flesh. May St Joseph, our great silent protector, allow us to read deeply that Christmas love letter of that Word-made-flesh, and allow it to be, especially this year, a source of light, delight and grace.
May Christmas 2021 be a time of great peace, trust and forgiveness for you and your families and friends. May we rediscover Jesus Christ our true light, a light that is always there, as we re-read this great love letter from our God.
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