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Chamber and committees

Meeting date: Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Meeting of the Parliament (Hybrid) 22 December 2020

Agenda: Time for Reflection, Business Motion, Covid-19, Junior Minister, Business Motion, UK Withdrawal from the European Union (Continuity) (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3, UK Withdrawal from the European Union (Continuity) (Scotland) Bill, Redress for Survivors (Historical Child Abuse in Care) (Scotland) Bill: Financial Resolution, Parliamentary Bureau Motion, Decision Time, Universal Credit £20 Increase


Time for Reflection

I remind members of the social distancing procedures that are in place in the chamber and across the campus and ask you to take care to observe those measures over the course of this afternoon’s business, including when entering and exiting the chamber.

Our time for reflection leader is the Very Rev Dr Susan M Brown, chaplain to Her Majesty the Queen in Scotland and minister of Dornoch cathedral, Church of Scotland.

The Very Rev Dr Susan M Brown (Chaplain to Her Majesty the Queen in Scotland and Minister of Dornoch Cathedral, Church of Scotland)

Thank you. The top Christmas cracker jokes for 2020 have been revealed. I will avoid the political ones, but how about:

“Why are Santa’s reindeer allowed to travel on Christmas eve? They have herd immunity.”

Presumably, after elf-isolation.

“Why could Mary and Joseph not make their work conference call? There was no zoom at the inn.”

“Why did Mary and Joseph fail to make it to Bethlehem in the first place? All virgin flights were cancelled.”

“Which Christmas film was 30 years ahead of its time? ‘Home Alone’”.

None of those jokes would have made any sense a year ago. How times change.

Until 1958, Christmas day in Scotland was a day just like any other. It is only in the past 60 years that it has grown into something bigger. That timeframe, strangely enough, coincides with the decline in church attendance. I just throw that out there.

This year, there will be no office parties or end-of-term dances. There will be no physical carol services or large family gatherings, and too many will be home, feeling very alone. Does that mean that Christmas has been cancelled?

I do not need to tell you that 2020 has been a tough year, but it has also been a year that has offered us the chance to reassess who and what we are about as individuals, as communities, as a nation and as a world, and where and how we want things to go from here.

A pared-back Christmas offers the same opportunity to stop and think about who and what matters, especially when the real Christmas story is allowed to take centre stage. That story has no groaning tables or stacks of presents. Instead, it revolves around a young couple, not yet old enough to vote, being invited by the Almighty to play a hugely significant role in events designed to turn the whole world upside down.

Through decisions made by those in power, the couple are forced to leave their home and family to be registered in another place. As refugees, they find themselves displaced and homeless, and having to welcome a newborn child into the world in the direst of circumstances. So young. So poor. So swept aside by society. And yet this couple are also so sure that this is not how things need to be.

We need to catch their visionary virus and find the courage to trust, as Mary and Joseph did, that the changes that the world needs to see will come about when the youngest and poorest are placed front and centre.

Following God’s example is a challenge for us all.

Peace be with you, this Christmas and always.