For nearly everyone, Christmas 2020 will probably not look like what we earlier imagined for ourselves. This is not likely to be a “normal” Christmas for most of us.
Some are already grieving or complaining that the virus will keep them apart from loved ones this holiday season. They fear they will miss long-anticipated gatherings due to travel restrictions or safety concerns.
Some are suffering financially. This has been a difficult year for many families, having lost jobs or businesses, or finding that a shrinking national or local economy has reduced their personal income. Many worry that they will not be able to buy the gifts they hoped to give their little ones.
Some have experienced the death or serious illness of family members and friends. My wife Marcie’s mother died in April of Covid-19 contracted in a locked-down nursing home. Our daughter-in-law Hilary’s father succumbed to Lou Gehrig’s disease in September. We will deeply miss sharing Christmas with them this year. Many others we know have suffered similar losses, whether Covid-related or not. These absences will cast a pall over our holidays.
Nearly everyone will be impacted by the loss of festive parties and traditional gatherings in homes, offices, churches, and neighborhoods, as we continue to “socially distance.” Sharing gifts, Christmas hugs, kisses under the mistletoe, and other affectionate greetings will be AWOL this December.
I could go on, but you get the point.
So, what are we to do? Do we just mope around through the holidays, spewing doom and gloom from now until the new year and beyond? Do we bemoan what we do not have or will not experience, and in the process fail to recognize what can still be ours this Christmas? Will we allow our victimhood to rob us of the joy of the season?
I hope not.
A few weeks ago, I discovered a jewel of a thought in a Facebook post that could serve to brighten our Christmas spirits. The context was quite different, but the sentiment is the perfect antidote to our communal holiday malaise. I believe it could help us pivot our attitude from negativity to joyful thanksgiving. It could even produce a far better Christmas than we can even imagine.
My friend Adam Zern is a gifted and highly successful leader of young men in our church. He has guided scores of boys, if not hundreds, in navigating the difficult passage to manhood. Ironically, however, in his own family, he has four daughters and zero sons. This is something he never expected from life. In recently expressing his deep love and gratitude for his children, Adam used a powerful quote from Nathaniel Hawthorne that we all could choose to apply to the upcoming Christmas season. Adam wrote:
Oh, my girls. I’m not sure anyone plans to have all girls, but in the words of Nathaniel Hawthorne: “Providence had meditated better things for me than I could possibly imagine for myself.” I do [everything] I do for them. As one who knows, God loves his daughters and counts their tears. I am forever theirs. #givethanks.