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How Christmas was different in 2020

by davesandel on January 12th, 2021

Tuesday, January 12, 2021                 (today’s lectionary)

How Christmas was different in 2020

It was not to angels that God subjected the world to come, of which we are speaking. Instead, someone has testified somewhere, “What is man that you are mindful of him?”

We had to work harder, seemed like. Smaller events took bigger planning. We wore masks when we wanted to kiss each other. We bumped elbows when we wanted to hug long and deep. We didn’t get together in large gatherings, super-spreaders, the news called them. Or if we did get together, we felt guilty. Weren’t we making everyone around us sick? Might we not get sick ourselves, and even die?

O Lord, our Lord how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have given your Son rule over the works of your hands.

With our friends, we Zoomed, and with our families, we Zoomed. Zoom was always better than nothing, but sometimes not much better. And when we could get together, we did. Our family had two small gatherings, one in Urbana and the other in Austin, Texas. We ate ham and pizza, we opened gifts under Christmas trees that were decorated and lit.

What was missing, mostly, was the pizazz provided by camaraderie with the Rest of Us, parties down the street, prayers in churches at midnight attended by throngs of worshippers, and the thought-provoking freedom of imagining Santa visiting all of us without a mask, getting home to Mother early on Christmas morning, and settling into his long winter’s nap. Did he do all that this year? Wouldn’t he get sick if he did all that? Did Santa die?

It was fitting that he, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should make the leader to their salvation perfect through suffering.

Our kids’ questions might have been our own, if our imaginations were up to it. And as I grieve my own wilted imagination, I also ask God to wake me up again. Remember Scrooge? For him every Christmas was a pandemic Christmas. Ebenezer Scrooge didn’t wear a mask, but he avoided everyone. He went home alone on Christmas Eve, or intended to anyway. The ghosts of Christmas paid his intentions no mind, however, and in the early hours of Christmas Day Scrooge was transformed. I can just imagine Charles Dickens, so angry with his creation at first, but then …

Dickens softens toward the old man. God’s grace falls lightly at last upon Scrooge’s shoulders. Given God’s famous second chance, Scrooge claims it, Scrooge rejoices in it, Scrooge will not let it go. He bought the biggest turkey in the shop and had it sent post haste to the Cratchit kitchen.

By the end, Mr. Dickens fell in love with his old man:

To Tiny Tim, who did not die, he was a second father. He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world.

And so this can be my story too, right, and yours? Does God stop with Scrooge? Not on your life, cries Charles Dickens, not on your ever-loving life! God pours out both conviction and forgiveness from his never-emptied glass. All the differences wrought by our pandemic come to nothing in the end. Drink up this Grace, this gift of Grace, and sing. Christmas is coming, Christmas has come, Jesus is with us always.

Receive the word of God, not as the word of men, but as it truly is, the word of God.

(Hebrews 2, Psalm 8, 1 Thessalonians 2, Mark 1)

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