COVID-19 update: The cathedral is not currently open for general visits or tours but remains open for private prayer and reflection 11-3pm. All services are now online only and everyone is welcome to join.
This year we have become accustomed to accepting changes and restrictions to our daily lives in order to keep ourselves and others safe. As I write, government guidance around Christmas has changed. Perhaps you are not greatly affected, or are able to incorporate the changes stoically. Perhaps, however, your cherished plans are disrupted and this feels like the final straw at the end of a dreadful year. Whatever your circumstances, I do hope that you can hold in heart and mind the abiding promise of Christmas. A light shines in the darkness and it’s a light that can never be overcome.
You may remember, or have heard of, the Hollywood actor and former competitive swimmer, Johnny Weissmuller. A man of impressive physique who excelled in the role of Tarzan, for which few words were required, as he swung through the jungle, fought lions and wooed the lovely Jane. When a reporter asked Johnny his approach to the role, his response was simple, ‘Just keep hanging on to that vine.’
That’s really good advice for us in adversity. Hang on to the vine. The vine for Christians is, of course, Jesus Christ. Hang on to Emmanuel, God-with-us, the true vine. He teaches us the way of faith, hope and love. These three things abide. As everything else is shaken, taken away or changed, faith, hope and love abide.
Hang on to faith and trusting God and knowing that God is with us. Hang on to hope in God and his promises for the future. Hang on to love and the knowledge that you are loved and can share your love with others, even when you are separated. Hang on and you will find that God was hanging on to you the whole time.
One of the special activities to bring Comfort and Joy this year has been the Cathedral Lockdown Poetry Burst Competition and the winners have now been announced. Thank you to the 250 people who entered and congratulations to everyone who has won their category or been highly commended (details are on the website). Here in full, is the winning poem from the Open category by Ann Lewin. This lovely poem gives us a message of faith, hope and love. The poet uses an acrostic (from the Great O Antiphons), ERO CRAS, meaning ‘Tomorrow I will be with you’.
IN this bleak midwinter
He will come:
Embracing us in love,
Re-ordering our priorities,
Opening our hearts to hope;
Comforting us in sorrow,
Rescuing us from despair,
Accepting us in weakness,
Surprising us with joy.
Nothing can cancel Christmas
He will come
The dawn of light
No darkness can destroy.
Ann Lewin, 2020
I do hope that, whatever your circumstances, the light of Christ will banish darkness and that you will have a very Happy Christmas. I hope that the New Year will bring health, healing and new hope.
Joy can be found in our Big Nativity Service, available on line and featuring Canon Andy with Sir David Suchet, the Cathedral boy choristers and the Junior Choir. People of all ages have loved it. Do take a look. You can also still see the musical Advent Calendar and the Advent Daily Reflections online and our services during December.
Although Christmas brings joy, it is important to acknowledge the particular pain of bereavement at Christmas. This year, following the loss of many servants of the Cathedral, we have lost Dean Emeritus James Atwell. James’ funeral in the Cathedral on Thursday 7 January at 2.00pm will be live-streamed. To comply with COVID-19 restrictions, the service is strictly limited to invitation only. Please continue to pray for all those who have been bereaved this year.
Due to the Christmas holidays and staff annual leave, the next Dean’s message will be in two weeks’ time, on Tuesday 5 January 2021. Until then, I leave you with a beautiful Christmas prayer by Archbishop William Temple:
We pray thee, O Lord, to purify our hearts
that they may be worthy to become thy dwelling place.
Let us never fail to find room for thee, but come and abide in us
that we also may abide in thee, who as at this time wast born into the world for us
and dost live and reign, King of kings and Lord of lord, now and for evermore. Amen.