In the last few weeks of the year, we often reach a point where we pause, step back from the hustle and bustle and the mad sprint to the finish line, and remind ourselves of what Christmas is truly about.
This year we don’t really need that reminder.
There’s nothing quite like the worst bushfires NSW has ever seen followed by a global pandemic to provide perspective.
Add in a few months of social distancing, enforced separation from loved ones overseas and interstate and an economic crisis, and the appreciation for family, friends, and the festive rituals that give the weeks and months of the year a distinctly human rhythm, take on added meaning.
The recent new outbreak of COVID-19 in Sydney’s north has only accentuated the deep need we all have for those connections, and after a year like this, I know I have learned to savour the abundant blessings we enjoy in Australia even more than usual.
The prospect of celebrating this Christmas with the people we love has been a bright light at the end of a long tunnel, and while many will be able to enjoy that time, it is heartbreaking that for some NSW families the wait will be a little bit longer.
Many will also feel the absence of relatives and friends overseas, and for others without any family around, Christmas can be a time when loneliness is felt even more keenly.
While there have been many silver linings in 2020, there are still thousands of people across NSW who have lost their jobs or livelihoods. Continuing to pull together as a community and helping secure their future is something we must all redouble our efforts on in 2021.
The challenges we have faced this year touched everyone in some way. Rising to those challenges will continue to require a united effort.
Despite the inevitable setbacks along the way, we have already begun the journey back, and the sense of optimism has not been diminished.
My wish for the people of Epping – and everyone in NSW – is that Christmas is a time of peace, joy and restoration after one of the toughest years in a long time.
And my hope is that all who are able will make an even bigger effort this year to reach out to those still doing it tough, so we can all head into the new year with a spring in our step, and ready to take on whatever 2021 brings.
Wishing you and your family a very happy Christmas, and a joyous new year.