Cardinal Vincent Nichols urged Catholics to find ways to celebrate Christmas in their homes as London entered a strict tier 4 lockdown to try and combat the spread of a new strain of the coronavirus.
Among his suggestions were setting up a crib or nativity at home, and having an “at home” carol singalong.
“Let’s be clear: Christmas is not cancelled,” the Cardinal said at the Westminster Cathedral Carol Service, hours after London and the south east had locked down. “We will celebrate it with clear minds and hearts. We know what we are doing.”
Churches and places of worship are allowed to remain open in tier 4 and Mass can be celebrated publicly.
“During this time we are being pushed back into the confines of our homes, into our inner selves, without the other aspects of life which are so important: the ability to mix with others, to socialise and to entertain. But, thank God, we can come to Church, to pray and praise God in the celebration of Mass. This too we must do with every care,” the Cardinal said.
Noting the new restrictions and stay at home orders for London and the South East, he urged Catholics to take care of themselves, their loved ones and all with whom they come into contact.
While he welcomed the opportunity for people to worship together, he noted that Christmas “in its true meaning” belongs in peoples’ homes and hearts.
“Prepare a place for Jesus to dwell in your hearts. Ask him to be born again in you, in me, bringing with him the peace that only he can give. We need his loving presence to keep us going, personally and together, in this tough time,” he said.
“Find time every day to give him your undivided attention; speak with him of your sorrows and joys; tell him your worries, sharing them with him. Speak to him of your love, of your longing for harmony, of your desire for fairness and peace. Listen to his words of compassion and forgiveness, inviting you to offer the hand of forgiveness rather than the pointed finger of blame. This is what flows from his heart, from his manger, announced by the angels and received by those humble of heart, whether shepherds or kings.”
Nothing can take away the presence of Christmas in homes, hearts and communities, he added. “So let us welcome his coming with an unambiguous joy, with a shared delight, with a generous spirit. We know what we are doing. Speak this wonderful Christmas story to each other, highlighting the wonder and the unshakable hope that it brings to all.”