Greetings Dear People of Bethlehem,
It’s hard to believe that we are entering into the final month of what has proven to be a far more tumultuous year than anyone anticipated. For much of 2019, there was a joke circulating on the internet where someone would ask, “What do you think you’ll be doing this time next year?” To which the person would respond, “I don’t know, I don’t have 20-20 vision!” Safe to say I don’t think any of us had 2020 vision!
December is usually a month where the church proclaims a counter-cultural message to the one that we see on TV, in online ads, and in stores everywhere. Advent is intended to be a season of preparation; a mini Lent. It is a period where we make straight the paths of the Lord in the world and in our hearts, where we make room for Jesus amidst the clutter of our lives. This clashes with the buy more, give more, consume more mentality of the Christmas giving season. Even though it is still early (with Thanksgiving still in the rearview, and its leftovers still in my refrigerator) things already feel different this year.
Don’t get me wrong, there definitely still is a strong commercial push, that is in some ways stronger than ever before, what with Christmas displays showing up in stores right after Halloween. But intertwined with it all seems to be this spirit of altruism that has run as an undercurrent throughout this whole pandemic year. There seems to be a richness, a fullness to the festivity that has been lacking in previous years; a foundation of gratitude and thanks. A push to purchase things, not just so that you can have more stuff, but so that we can support small businesses and the workers they employ. A desire to give presents to our loved ones, not so that we can be seen as the perfect gift giver, but to show our love and care and appreciation for one another. A call to eat out (or carry out), not because it is the holidays and we need to consume beyond our means and eat decadently, but in order to support beloved local restaurants and their employees. An urgency to order gifts early, not because of some artificial sense of scarcity, or so that you can “win Christmas” by being done first, but in an attempt to alleviate, or at least limit, the toll that this holiday season will put on delivery persons who are already exhausted and overworked.
And while it may not be exactly in line with the usual Advent message of the church, it seems a fitting way to end this very unusual year. I see a redeeming of the Advent season, which seemed in many parts of the society to be a shallow and hollow thing, happening all around me. People are so in need of something to be joyful about, so desperate for some good news, that it seems only logical that it should come from the birth of the one who is the Good News.