З Новим роком i З Різдвом Христовим! That’s Ukrainian for Happy New Year and Happy Christmas!
Our twelve days of Christmas came to an end on Friday but in Ukraine’s Christmas has just started! There Christmas Day is celebrated on 7th January, although since 2017, Ukraine has had a public holiday on 25th December to celebrate Christmas then too — it reflects the shared culture and faith of Eastern Orthodox Christianity and Western European Christianity in Ukraine.
I’ve been reflecting on the sharing of cultures, faith and presents a lot this past week and, perhaps because today is Epiphany, the Magi have been prominent in my thoughts.
Epiphany is the day when we remember and celebrate them arriving in Bethlehem to give their gifts of frankincense, myrrh and gold to Jesus. Which is why, for some, it is only now that these astronomers from the East are placed in their nativity sets to complete the picture. But arriving as most Christmas decorations are packed away feels, to me at least, somewhat anticlimactic. Their arrival to the party though, brings to mind the sharing of life — not least the long and challenging journey that the Magi share with Ukrainians who traveled to find safety and shelter here in Somerset.
Christmas and Epiphany share the celebration of Emmanuel: God sharing His life and love not just with the Magi but with us in Somerset, Ukraine and beyond. God also shared the experience of tough journeys through time and space with all of us too — Jesus, Mary and Joseph became refugees themselves as they fled from a tyrant bent on their destruction.
Reflecting on that has left me thankful that God shares His love and hope on our journeys through life, whether they are journeys of sorrow or joy. But it also makes me thankful for the sharing of life and love between Somerset and Ukraine too. And it feeds my prayers that we all will be blessed with sharing hope, peace and justice in the year ahead.