The impact of Covid on Christmas holidays tops off 2020 – the year that keeps on giving, as someone close to me said! Even though there have been some good things, 2020 seems to have majored in separation, sadness, anxiety and grief. Christmas was going to be the time when, we could forget all that. But is Christmas ‘cancelled’!?
Of course not, take away the sugary Christmas of pop culture, and we find a real story with edge and grit. We find bits lost because they don’t fit with cosy and tinsel: “Joseph got up and, taking the child and his mother with him, left that night for Egypt.”Mt 2.13 They had to escape, refugees in the face of Herod’s fear and murderous anger. Suddenly, within a day, they are separated from family and friends, isolated and in fear for their lives. All that they had been looking forward to is spoiled. It’s not that they won’t be happy, and the chances are that they will be safe; but this time is spoiled and cannot be replaced.
In a film, there would be some sad music before a change of heart, a sudden success, a happy ending; but this is real life. For Christians, God enters the world through Jesus, choosing to live fully in our reality, rough with the smooth. Jesus shows us that God does not stand apart, God stands alongside us, as we stand alongside one an other – it is not a happy ending but it is real. God-with-us is not an empty gesture, it signals something new – shown in a thousand ways as people work to feed the hungry, care for the homeless, comfort the frightened.
Now the story of Christmas begins to take its proper place – the message of angels: Good news – peace on earth. That word ‘peace’ is the Hebrew ‘Shalom’, a word that means wholeness and well-being, as well as calm. Well-being for all people, not something that is done to us, but something that together we can bring into being, by the power of God at work among us. Even in the midst of all this, this is something that we can be part of, and no one and nothing can take away what Christ has made and is making possible with us. Christmas is not cancelled, it is Good News even in the present and as we look forward to the coming year.