For those who celebrate and for many who don’t, Christmas is a special time of year. The lights, the shopping, and the excited laughter of children. The food and family gatherings. Polar bears drinking Coca-Cola, and I’d like to teach the world to sing, and Lucy trying to get Schroeder to play Jingle Bells.
This year will be different.
At least for most. Some will celebrate as they always have, and I wish them luck, peace, and above all, health.
But for most of us, it will be one more day in a long string of days of social distancing.
You might need somethin’ to hold on to
When all the answers they don’t amount to much
Somebody that you can just talk to
And a little of that human touch
Social distance. Who came up with that? Some marketing team somewhere. Six feet or six miles alone is alone.
Family gatherings, holding hands around the table. Watching the kids rip into carefully wrapped presents. Hugs. Remember hugs?
Santa Claus is driving an Amazon Prime truck this year.
It doesn’t have to be that way. It can’t be what it was last Christmas or the hundred before that, but it can still be a special day shared by those you love and others you don’t know. You can still reach out; you just can’t touch someone.
Here’s a couple of thoughts to put things into perspective.
You know that loneliness and sadness you are feeling about this Christmas? Well, to many out there, this is nothing new. For the sad truth is that this Christmas won’t be any different for a lot of people. They’ve been socially distant for years; they just didn’t have a snappy name for it.
And here’s the other thing. For a lot of us, Covid is a big problem. It’s the big problem. But for many, it’s just one more. Last Christmas, they suffered from disease, or poverty, or hunger, oppression, or desolation. This Christmas they just have one more problem. And in the scheme of their lives, it’s not a very big one. It’s certainly not the biggest one.
So, we know this Christmas will be different, so instead of fighting it, embrace it. You can still do plenty to make this Christmas special for you, your loved ones, and the strangers in your town, your community, maybe even next door.
There is an old story. I’ve heard several variations, so I’ll make it short. A person is trapped in the bottom of a deep hole. They yell for someone to lend a hand, but nobody stops. People pass by, acting like they don’t hear the cries for help. Finally, somebody stops and jumps down into the hole with him.
“Are you crazy? Now we’re both stuck down here.”
“Yeah, but I’ve been here before. I know the way out.”
Whatever your situation, it’s almost certain you have been in a hole before. And you got out. So this year, reach down and give a hand to someone still stuck.
Since March, our community has donated groceries to local food banks. I am one of the fortunate ones who got to deliver them each week. I met the volunteers who spend all day sorting and boxing and making sure the food gets to those who need it.
Yesterday, I took our final load of the year to a nearby church. This week was more special as for the last month, we have also been collecting presents for the kids. We thought asking people for children’s gifts would diminish the food collection, but if anything, the opposite was true. So, we took our carloads of food and toys by the day they were giving out the toys and the last food of the year.
As always, we got there around lunch, knowing the Christmas Market, as they called it, wouldn’t begin for another five hours. And yet, the parking lot was already full. Carloads of masked strangers lined up in queues that stretched around the church twice watched us drop off our boxes and bags. The look of excited children I thought I would miss was right there, by the hundreds.
So quit crying over what you will miss this year. It wasn’t too late for this Ebenezer Grinch, and it’s not too late for you. There is someone nearby who is crying out for help. They may even live next door. You may not lend a literal hand, but you can certainly offer a symbolic one. Box up a serving of your Christmas dinner and take it to that house down the street you never see anyone at. Google food bank. I’ll be there are a dozen within a few miles of you right this minute.
When you go grocery shopping, pick up an extra bag or two of food and swing by that parking lot where the migrant workers hang out. Don’t take that closet full of clothes you don’t wear to Goodwill. There are people in your community that can’t afford Goodwill. If you can’t find them personally, there is a church down the road that can. Don’t worry about the denomination. It doesn’t matter. My Jewish friends worked the food line at the Catholic church around the corner. Because they could.
And don’t forget your family. All those people you can’t see this year. They are as sad about it as you are. Get a good charge on your phone and sit down Christmas morning and call every one of them. Don’t worry about Zoom or Facetime or Skype. Many of your relatives, especially the older ones, don’t know how to work that stuff. But they can answer the phone. They can hear your voice.
To everyone who celebrates Christmas, celebrate it. This year won’t be the same as the dozens before it, but that can be a good thing. You can still make it special to you and others. And if you don’t celebrate Christmas, December 25th is as good a day as any to be kind to strangers. To help those in need. Someone is yelling from the bottom of a hole. Can you hear them?