It’s both hard and sad to imagine how Christmas is going to be this year during this time of pandemic. Unless they close interprovincial travel, I will go home to Vancouver. Following a period of self-isolation to ensure I protect my family, I will join a few of my close family members and we will create our own little bubble for Christmas.
While I know how important it is that we all work together to flatten the curve, it is still sad when I think about my entire family not being able to be together at Christmas, including my first great niece that will have just recently been born.
We won’t all go to worship together. We may not go to in-person worship at all. If we do, my mom will probably have to stay behind. There will be no choir singing carols, no congregational hymn singing, and then there is the question of communion.
I know you are all struggling with the same sense of loss over Christmas traditions and time spent with family and friends.
It feels unfair! How can it possibly be Christmas without all these things?
When all these feelings start to well up inside me, I take a moment to breathe, and think, and remember that well-known Christmas story. Of course, it will still be Christmas!
Mary and Joseph did get to Bethlehem. Jesus was born. Angels appeared to shepherds. Shepherds came to greet the baby boy, the Prince of Peace.
Somehow, not the usual way, but somehow, I will still bow down and worship the Christ Child. I may not be able to join in with others in my congregation in singing my favourite Christmas carols (Joy to the World, Angels We Have Heard on High, and Silent Night), but I can sing them as I walk outside or in the quiet of my room or on Twitter!
My family bubble will still gather to eat a celebratory meal and listen to Handel’s Messiah, or Bach’s Christmas Oratorio. We will try to gather in acceptable socially distanced ways with other parts of the family.
And through it all we will give thanks and praise, once again, that God came to earth in human form—Emmanel—God with us.
Maybe without so many social gatherings and fussing and wrapping and cooking and doing dishes, we will have more time. Time to reflect on the Christmas story. Time to be enthralled once again at the birth of this baby who will change and save the world. Time to recommit to working for justice and peace for all people on earth and all of creation.
Let us pray.
Jesus, come to us again, and fill us with wonder and hope for our world. May the celebration of your birth help us to feel that God is near to us always. May the small disappointments of an unusual Christmas remind us of all who suffer so much more, homelessness, hunger, war and persecution. Help us to sing and trust “Be near me Lord Jesus I ask you to stay close by me forever and love me I pray. Bless all the dear children in thy tender care, and fit us for heaven to live with you there.” Amen.
May God bless each one of you as we receive, once again, the Christ Child.
National Bishop Susan Johnson
Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada