Home for the holidays, 2020 style
This Christmas, home for the holidays has a whole new meaning. In the past, such a concept would conjure up nostalgic scenes of families coming from near and far to reunite at Grandma’s house.
Think about the rush of Christmas movies that run on your television this time of year. They feature people brought together by the traditions of generations. Cars loaded with presents, encounters that heal old wounds bring forgiveness and joy to reunited families and friends.
This year, with COVID-19, home for the holidays means “stay in your home with only immediate relatives.” It means buy gifts online and Zoom or Facetime even close family and friends; no close contact allowed. No holding of new babies in the family or hugging elderly grandparents. No gatherings that provide reunions of friends lost through the years or siblings estranged for a period reunited with forgiveness and love.
Technology often divides and separates people as we stare at our cell phones disregarding the world right around us. We worry about delivery trucks replacing the smiling familiar face of a small shop owner we know and trust. There is something depersonalizing about looking at an object to buy on a computer screen as we make gift selections as opposed to running our eyes and hands over the surface of those objects under consideration.
We humans are social animals. The very story of the first Christmas stressed the community nature of the birth of Jesus. Joseph and Mary traveled with their neighbors to pay government taxes in a distant city. The story speaks of a crowd of people in the town of Bethlehem. Even the birth of Jesus in a barn mentions the life of animals surrounding the family. Shepherds representing the everyday neighbor folks and kings displaying wealth, cosmopolitan involvement and education are a solid part of the narrative.
Christianity and Judaism are social religions. Most of us practice the rituals and experience the spirit of God with life around us.
So, how do we find the personal social stimulation, inspiration and expression in an international pandemic when we are advised to cut out personal contact with even our extended family?
All types of creative ways of doing this have surfaced in response to our current challenges. We have Facetime, Zoom and Skype available on our computers and smartphones that bring us in real time the faces and voices of people far and near. Using such techniques, we can interact for hours as we watch babies’ first steps or sing carols to each other. No longer do you have to worry about a toll clock running as you briefly greet each other.
An added technological benefit is the vast array from which we may select very personalized gifts for others via the internet.
There is still plenty of opportunity to use good ole one on one with someone. We can all practice more prayer time or meditation that connects us to a joint spiritual life. In addition, we have at our fingertips a broad spectrum of choices for music, spiritual words of wisdom and comfort and experiences of holiday traditions. We can join others on a trip around the world this Christmas without spending a dime or risking a thing.
Christmas lights have a whole new meaning to me this year. They seem to be signaling out into the world a message of hope to the passerby. During the rest of the year, the woods around me here at the farm are dark at night. But now, two distance houses with their colorful lights are a welcome sign that I am not alone in this world.
I have been clearing out old boxes in my pole barn. Through the years, I had the habit of saving photos, letters and cards I thought were too precious to throw away. Going through those mementos, I am reunited with old family and friends that I am not able to be with now. It has firmly planted in me my constant relationship with a broad spectrum of enriching human beings.
For me, that is the central message of Christmas. God is here now and active in all of His creation. And, everything in God’s creation is interconnected. Still, sometimes you may feel left behind or left out. It is up to all God’s children to reach out to one another to help and be helped. A pandemic with its problems gives us obvious calls to befriend and engage others. When we separate unto ourselves, we become vulnerable to forces contrary to love, forgiveness and reconciliation. When we acknowledge our connectedness and interact in a positive way with others, we discover the Christmas miracle. It heals us physically and spiritually.
This has been my 2020 Christmas miracle for which I give great thanks as it is once again an affirmation that God works through the very life around us. Look for Him.