Reflection: The true meaning of Christmas
Archdeacon Dorrien Davies remembers attending a Plygain service with his late father, recalls past Christmases and considers this year’s celebration
At Christmas we are reminded of many things, family, friends, and memories of the past. We may think differently in 2020 as we look back at the dreadful effects of Covid-19. I hope we can not only think of the reality of the virus, but also the heroic and selfless stories about individuals and the National Health Service.
One of my memories from this year is one I shared with my late father, when we attended a Plygain service in Myddfai church together. I want to thank all those who contributed to the service and made it such a memorable time for me, especially as it made my father so happy and filled his heart with peace and joy.
I remember when I was curate in Llanelli, members of the church shared with me their memories of Christmas. The old tradition of holding a Plygain service on Christmas morning was still alive in the church then. Not a midnight service, but a choral service beginning at six o’clock in the morning. The service lasted for about an hour and three quarters, including Morning Prayer and a sermon, followed by Sung Eucharist. The church was full, and there was a deep sense of belonging to the larger Christian family.
I remember one person sharing his experience and the impression made upon him of seeing a huge congregation sharing communion as the dawn began to light up the colours in the large window above the altar. At the other end of the church, he saw bellringers, preparing to ring the big bells with conviction and feeling as the congregation sang the great “Amen” and received the Blessing. After the service, everyone greeted one another with “Merry Christmas!”
I believe that this story is the foundation for the Christmas meditation, helping us to remember the true meaning of the season. During the past weeks people have been worried about how Christmas will be spent, there is a feeling of secularism in the way people think. Christmas is above all a religious festival: as Christians, we are called to realise, and be conscious of, the birth of the incarnate Christ. I hope that, instead of wondering how we should spend Christmas, we should think of how we commemorate it. Christmas is to do with that baby who came to share our human state, spare us from sin and death and lead to hope and fulfilment in the Resurrection.
I realise that Christmas this year will be very strange. Perhaps we will be challenged by more after-effects because of the coronavirus. However, if we remove Jesus, there will be no meaning at all. The joy of Christmas does not depend on presents and decorations, turkey and drink, but on the huge fact that Christ has touched the lives of people in every situation and has shown to us how to overcome the problems of the world.
In the stained-glass window, in St Elli’s Church, Llanelli, which I previously mentioned, the crucified Christ was in the centre. The cross of Christ a symbol of hope, forgiveness, and life. The way to the cross and the empty grave begins with the birth of a child. The world is facing an unsure future, the only sure thing is Jesus.
When my father and I were at the Christmas Plygain last year, little did we know that this would be our last Christmas together. I am joyful though that we left Myddfai with the certainty that Christ was with us, no matter what we would face in the future. As we celebrate Christmas 2020, we can be reassured that Jesus is with us. This is the true meaning of Christmas, and the way ahead into 2021.