Finding Christmas in 2020

Hello readers. It’s been nearly five months since I published my last blog as I needed to take some time off to address some personal and health issues.  I trust you are all well.  As I write this we are but two weeks away from Christmas 2020. Like no year prior, it seems to have snuck up on us somehow.  I recall seeing the first televised Christmas special as it dawned on me that it was already December.  This year Christmas will be strangely different to so many people on so many levels.  It is the year of the pandemic, the Corona virus.  Few if any have escaped its impact as it continues to grip our nation and the entire planet with sickness and death at alarming rates still on the rise.  The lives of most people have been shaken into an unrecognizable form we didn’t see coming.  Just barely a year ago we celebrated and ushered in the year 2020 not knowing the year would bring dramatic and painful change to many and completely disrupt the way we have always done life. It became the year of the mask, the year of social distancing, the year of quarantines, and for some the year of tragic loss.  This year many Christmas dinners will be solemn as all acknowledge the now empty chair once occupied by a treasured loved one lost to Covid-19. Trees that once guarded many presents will now be watching over a limited few as jobs thought secured were taken away unexpectedly or wages for others reduced to minimal levels.   Some will have dinners only because it was supplied by the generosity of their neighbors. Some are missing that special someone who made their life worth living due to circumstances unexpected and face an already challenging season feeling alone and isolated.  Suicides are on the rise claiming victims as young a nine years old while anti-depressant drugs have reached sales of historical levels. There is very little this year that “feels” like our traditional Christmas.

We have transformed what was intended as a holy day of remembrance into a commercialized consumer spectacle that begins two to three weeks before Thanksgiving as retailers are quick to stock their shelves with pre-holiday sales, counting on the seasonal profits representing for some up to 30-40% of their annual budget. The commercials tell us loud and clear it’s Christmas.  Lights on the houses and decorations in the malls look like Christmas.  A chill in the air or snow on the ground remind us that it’s the time for Christmas, but still something is lacking, the joy, the magic, the “feelings” of Christmas.  And as in many cases, that which we can not feel somehow becomes less meaningful or real.  It doesn’t feel a certain way so it must not be a certain way, and once again our feelings or lack thereof overshadow or even betray the truth.  We forget that historical fact or previous experience can’t be denied or altered by the presence or the absence of internal feelings.

When a couple has been together for some time and have a history together they will experience days when they don’t “feel” like a couple.  It would be great if every day was like the first day they fell in love, music, butterflies and warm “feelings”. But the truth is there are those days which are challenging, the days when one or the other is irritable or having a bad day, the days when the love they both share and know to be real isn’t necessarily “felt.”  But the mature couple will know that that which isn’t felt or expressed at the time is no less a reality because of the knowledge, the history and the past expressions that serve as evidence to it’s existence.  As I ponder this in my own life experience this year I can’t help but to apply the same to Christmas 2020.  The fact that I’m struggling to find the spirit, to capture the grandeur, to experience the magic of my favorite holiday doesn’t change the reason for remembering the holiday and all that it represents in the lives of believers.  Nothing we are experiencing in our world today can alter the events recorded for us on that very special and holy first Christmas night over two thousand years ago in a small town named Bethlehem. Christ, the almighty creator of man and universe, stepped away from His glory to become one of us in the lowliest of circumstances.  John 3:16 is so overused and watered down that it has become a cliché in today’s world. But the wonder of Christmas is captured within its context.  God had such an unconditional and unmeasurable love for us, all of us, that he gave up His only Son to come into a corrupt world full of hate and evil so that by his life and sacrifice we might be redeemed and reconciled to the Father and eventually live and reign with Him forever. This promise and reality are sealed by His word, which can’t be minimalized due to our current climate or feelings.

I’m with you, trust me! This has been the most difficult of my 59 years on earth.  I have suffered great loss in every area of my life.  It has been a Job-like year as I’ve been stripped of everything I held dear, the security of a job, the blessing of good health, and the loss of a love I though would last forever.  We all have our individual stories of how 2020 has removed us from our comfort zones and thrust us into a dimension of unknowns that can only be successfully navigated through a strong compass of faith.  And yet, strangely enough, it is those very reasons, those lack of traditional “feelings” we are so used to that Christmas 2020 should be welcomed in with even more anticipation than anytime previous, and now more than ever before, it should drive home the meaning of this holy day. Christ, the Son of God, Emmanuel came to the lowly, the outcast of society, the hurting, the lonely, the unemployed, the broken hearted.  In His brief time on Earth Jesus healed those who were sick with disease.  He comforted those who felt lonely and unworthy.  He became a friend the the friendless.  He forgave the sins of those who felt ashamed to be in His presence.  Jesus met people in their direst moments when they could go no lower and He raised them up with new hope, a new future, a new reason to live.  It was His divine plan from the beginning that we should be called Sons and Daughters of the Most High.  There is nothing we could ever endure in this lifetime that can or ever will change that!  Hold on to that in this season with all the strength you have left!  I know you may be unemployed or facing financial challenges unprecedented in your life, but still a Child was born.  You may have lost a parent, spouse, son or daughter to this disease and feel empty inside, but still a Child was born.  You may be reading this and facing another holiday feeling alone and unloved due to a broken relationship that left you crushed, but still a Child was born.  You may simply be overwhelmed at the way your world and everything in it has changed this year, but still a Child was born.

Oh how I wish I could dry the tears of all of us who have suffered so much this year. How I wish I could personally hug each of you and tell you it will be okay.  But there is one who can.  He is the Christ Child Jesus.  He is close to the broken hearted and he heals their wounds. He remains the reason we celebrate Christmas.  He is Emmanuel, God with us, our comforter, our healer, our blessed hope. There’s not a tear the fell that He hasn’t seen or a cry He hasn’t heard.  There’s not an illness he can’t heal or a job He can’t replace. There’s not a heart so broken He can’t put back together and make stronger then before. No the corona virus has not cancelled Christmas.  Covid hasn’t changed the events of that first holy night and our depth of feelings can’t erase the historical fact that Jesus was born of the Virgin mary to begin a ministry and journey that would lead Him to the cross to save all who would accept and follow Him.  Don’t allow this pandemic to distract your focus away from the awesome gift of Christmas, the Christ Child!

If I may I’d like to offer up a prayer for those who have been so severely impacted this year.

“Kind and gracious Father, we humbly come before you today to thank you for the blessing of Christmas.  We acknowledge that You gave up your Son on our behalf.  Father You know all things so you are aware that this has been a difficult year for so many and we struggle to find joy during this season.  We ask you this day in the name of our Savior, the Christ Child Jesus, to send your spirit to comfort those who are mourning the loss of life this Christmas. We ask you to heal every individual who is currently inflicted with this or any other disease.  God we ask you to consider those whose hearts have been broken this year and to restore to them love and companionship in such a way they know it’s from you alone.  And finally Father we ask that you restore hope to those who are desperate or close to giving up.  Let the spirit of that first Christmas envelope them in a tangible way with warmth and love.  May we not fall prey to the betrayal of feelings that we forget the reason and the person we remember each year at this sacred time, the holy Child Jesus Christ.  It is in His name and honor we ask this, Amen”

God bless and keep and protect each of you this Christmas.  Love to you all!

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