Sometimes, it seems, we can be forever waiting: waiting for the bus, waiting to be served in the shop or restaurant, waiting for the end of self-isolation and lockdown, waiting for the COVID-19 vaccine. Most of all, we have been waiting for Christmas, and this year it couldn’t come soon enough.
But, the waiting is nearly over. The good news is proclaimed across the world for all to hear, that the darkness of pandemic is giving way to immunity, as the new vaccine has arrived. And, as we hear in the Gospels through Advent, the message from John the Baptist is that the waiting for our Saviour is also over. Indeed, just as the news on the television, or online, shows people already receiving the vaccine, the Baptist tells the people of Israel that the Saviour is already among them.
For many, though, through the year, the time of waiting has taken its toll, and Christmas will be overshadowed by illness, loss of loved ones, loss of a job, loss of income. The arrival of the vaccine does not suddenly sweep away all the hardships and difficulties; it will still take some time to roll out the vaccine across the country and the world. And the joy that Christmas brings may not ease all the upsets that many people have had to face or will have to face in the coming year. But we are not alone; we are accompanied by Mary and Joseph with their new born baby, who will soon find themselves on the run and refugees in a foreign land.
Yet, as we keep in our prayers all those who face difficulties at this time, let us focus, at least for a short while, on the joy of the birth of Jesus in a stable in Bethlehem, when time gives way to an endless night of wonder. For with Christmas comes hope for the world, and in that hope comes joy and peace, which the world cannot give. The timelessness of the Nativity echoes through the ages, as shepherds search out what they have been told by the chorus of angels, that, in the ‘town of David a Saviour has been born to you, he is Christ the Lord’. It is a message to be shared by all the people.
Just as we are eager to share the good news of the vaccine, let us always, with joy, share the message of Christmas: that the waiting is over; that there is a light which will overcome every darkness of this world, and that light is Jesus Christ, born to us as a child in a stable. We are no longer to be afraid, for the Christ child brings us hope that, whatever the trouble, we are to trust in God’s mercy. Just as God did not desert the people of Israel, he does not desert us. In the fullness of time, through the power of the Holy Spirit, we will join Mary and Joseph, and Jesus, Son of God made man, as the joy of Christmas leads us to the everlasting joy of heaven.