IN his victory speech on November 8, the US President-Elect Joe Biden paraphrased familiar words from the Book of Ecclesiastes in his appeal for a new spirit of unity in his country: “The Bible tells us to everything there is a season, a time to build, a time to reap and a time to sow. And a time to heal. This is the time to heal.”

These words were lost on his opponent who spent the next six weeks disputing the outcome of the election, spurning the opportunity to embrace a healing process in a country desperately in need of healing, not least from the Covid pandemic where the US continues to lead the world both in the number of cases and fatalities.

But the message of a time to heal is not limited to the US alone. The roll out of the vaccination programme in surgeries across the country this week heralds the promise of a return to a normality of sorts.

As a year long period of pandemic finally yields to a season of inoculation, there is a real sense of hope for an end to the times of trial brought about by disease.

As the Queen said in her address to the nation in April of this year: “We should take comfort that, while we may have more still to endure, better days will return: we will be with our friends again; we will be with our families again; we will meet again.”

Alongside Covid there is other healing to be done. The impact of Brexit in the New Year risks re-opening divisions between leavers and remainers which in recent months have played second fiddle to the pandemic. Whatever the outcome of the ongoing negotiations, a Covid bracketed Brexit will – in the short term at the very least – likely exacerbate the economic disparities laid bare by the disease and in the accompanying blame game create new divisions based on old enmities.

With both Covid and Brexit there will be voices who oppose the message of healing. Whether the voices come in the form of anti-vaxxers pedalling Covid conspiracy theories or the cossetted nationalists whose economic comforts will be untouched by the hardest of Brexits, there will be those who thrive on promoting division.

Yet this season of Advent is a reminder that even in times of trial our waiting gives birth to hope at Christmas. As the familiar carol reminds us: “Hail the heav'n-born Prince of Peace!

Hail the Son of Righteousness! Light and life to all He brings, Ris'n with healing in His wings”

The celebration of the Christ Child is a reminder of both the hope and the healing that extends far beyond Christmas Day and accompanies into the New Year and into the season to come.