Christian leaders in Seychelles are preparing their congregations to celebrate a ‘not-normal’ Christmas among the upheaval of the COVID-19 pandemic, as they wish families a safe holiday and hope that people celebrate while employing preventative sanitary measures.
As Catholics and Anglicans prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ on December 25, the leaders of Seychelles’ two Dioceses — Bishop Alain Harel and the Right Reverend James Wong — sent messages of Christmas.
Every year on this day, believers attend Mass celebrated in their respective parishes, but this year this will be done amid prevention measures set up against the COVID-19. These are wearing masks, sanitise hands and maintain social and physical distancing.
Catholic Bishop Harel started his message in saying that everything seems to indicate that “we will not be celebrating a normal Christmas in this year 2020.”
Harel said that the year 2020 is the chance to have a ‘not normal’ Christmas because it would remind Christians that Christmas is not a ‘normal’ event. (Joe Laurence, Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY
He said that with the economic crisis as a result of the COVID-19 virus “many families will have less means to buy toys for their children and some even to have a good Christmas lunch. Others, more affluent, will not be able to travel outside to shop in the new temples of consumption. Families, whose members live or work outside, will not be able to come together for the holiday season.”
“In such a context we will not have a ‘normal’ Christmas party but, if you think about it, is Christmas a normal party? Is it normal that God, infinitely powerful and creator of galaxies and all that exists, shows us his true face through the face of a newborn baby? Is it normal that the King of Kings is born in a stable?” Harel asked in his message.
He said that the year 2020 is the chance to have a ‘not normal’ Christmas because it would remind Christians that Christmas is not a ‘normal’ event.
“Indeed, God comes to join us and he manifests to us, how different he is from how we imagine him, by the birth of a baby who bears the name of Jesus – Emmanuel: God save us – God with us,” he added.
Harel calls on every one, families and parish communities “to take an interior journey and follow the star like the Magi, towards Jesus who awaits us in the cradle of our heart. Then our hearts will expand and we will be able to welcome Jesus into our brothers and sisters, especially the poorest, the most fragile, the most vulnerable.”
In wishing everyone a Merry Christmas, the Bishop said that”by living Christmas like this, this unusual holiday, in this new way, maybe we will enjoy less but we will discover true joy, a real feast.”
On his side, Right Reverend James Wong, said that “as we are celebrating Christmas, let us think about all those who are struggling for their rights and aspiring for dignity, justice, and peace in the world and in Seychelles. The evils of our world such as wars and violence, hate and egoism, social injustice, self sufficiency and destruction of the natural environment, cause pain and sufferings to many in various places. Others are still striving to find peace and reconciliation because of their past history.”
Wong said, “Christmas, my dear fellow pilgrims on our earthly journey, reminds us that God has not forgotten us humans, nor abandoned his creation (Archive photo: Patrick Joubert) Photo License: CC-BY
He said that with the birth of a Child, the world received a promise, the coming of the prince of peace. God comes in the midst of our humanity and creation as a promise to inaugurate a time of hope and growing peace.
“As a nation, we have known through our history, perpetrators and victims, culprits and those who suffered. Many have disappeared; others had to go into exile and others were simply killed. We are still a suffering nation; we are still crying for our dearly beloved. We have been wounded and the healing is very slow,” said Wong.
He added that this “Christmas, turn to those whom you have hurt and ask for forgiveness. Go quickly, go directly to those who hurt you or members of your families: fight for restored relationships, rip up the weeds of bitterness, and pursue the fruit of reconciliation.”
Wong said that “if we are going to truly say ‘Merry Christmas’ to one another, then we must adopt the passion of Jesus to step into the awkward, uncomfortable, humbling messiness that is reconciliation with one another.”
“Christmas, my dear fellow pilgrims on our earthly journey, reminds us that God has not forgotten us humans, nor abandoned his creation. In fact, God has come to us, and even become one of us! Christ tasted life as a refugee, as a poor villager of an oppressed people. Christ witnessed the suffering of the masses and faced violence, oppression, and death itself,” said the Anglican Bishop.
The birth Of Jesus Christ is a promise of reconciliation and peace that reveals God’s love, which overcomes all the threats, even death itself, said Wong who added that “this is the good news and great joy, which the angels proclaimed to the shepherds, this is the news we received and have to share with one another.”
Wong ended his message in saying that “in Christmas, we celebrate the coming of Christ, who reveals a radically new path in life, anew normal. A Merry and blessed Christmas to you all. Stay blessed and safe.”