Common Ground Editorial: December 2021

“How are you?”


It’s an all too common response when I have asked people this question during the last month or so. Yet, it’s unsurprising too. After nearly half a year navigating the impacts of Delta, people are tired. As we stand on the cusp of the Christmas season, the thought of celebrating is, for some of us, a daunting prospect indeed; many are simply hoping to collapse across the finish line and get some much-needed rest. Intentionally celebrating the advent of Jesus Christ can feel far from our minds.

It’s for this reason we have titled this year’s Christmas edition of Common Ground “The Vital Art of Celebration.” We have recognised and felt the challenge in doing so. It’s not easy to hold together sensitively and wisely the weariness many people are experiencing at this moment with the invitation to joyfully celebrate the birth of the world’s Saviour. Nonetheless, we have sought to do so, believing

A thrill of hope—the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn …

In this month’s lead article, “Where Love Rejoices,” John Dennison asks how we can celebrate in difficult and troubled times and what the meaning of our celebration could be. He invites us to deepen our understanding of Christmas: in Christ’s birth, God has done a new thing, and love truly rejoices. We suggest you read John’s article alongside this month’s stunning art piece, an exuberance of collage and colour by Kareen Durbin. Just as exuberant is our Field Notes interview with Tim Fenwick, who recounts his remarkable adventures in food, hospitality, and business—a life of learning to celebrate well.

Extraordinary as it is, Christian celebration arises out of the deepest truth about the world and can be threaded through the most ordinary of days. In our Monthly Practice, Frank Ritchie calls us to three simple, good ways to celebrate (like all our Common Ground practices, it’s easy to read but much better enjoyed in the doing). Professor Murray Rae considers that tarnished Christmas trope, the Christmas Bells. His meditation on Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem “Christmas Bells” restores to us the vividness of our Christmas declarations. Finally, no treatment of celebration would be complete without someone making a speech. We know you’ll love Andrew Shamy’s witty and effervescent address from Venn Winter Conference, a wonderful example of the Vital Art of Celebration.

As I close, I want to leave you with this blessing from Romans 15:13:

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him,
so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Rev. Dr. Nathan McLellan