Sometimes we seek change. Other times change is thrust upon us. And then there is 2020.
Since we first learned of the pandemic and began responding to the reality of COVID-19, many of our regular behaviors and patterns have changed. Now we accomplish so much—from worship to schooling to medical visits—virtually.
Many of those working in offices abruptly shifted to working from home, and many will never return to what we knew as traditional offices. Bible study leaders, quilters, preachers, parents–we’ve all faced change, not of our own making. We’ve had to figure out creative ways to accomplish what needs to be done.
We’ve managed this uninvited change in fits and starts. There are days when we’ve risen to the challenge and responded well. On just as many occasions, we’ve fallen flat. We’ve come to realize our shortcomings in parenting, in working from home, in loving our neighbor.
It’s easy to dwell on what likely won’t be happening this month. I imagine office parties and cookie exchanges won’t take place. Christmas pageants and parades are probably out too. As are caroling, the hustle and bustle of mall shopping, large family gatherings, and other activities, even crowded Christmas Eve worship services—all due to the coronavirus pandemic.
When we think back to the first Christmas, however, it was deceptively simple. There was a mother, a father, and a baby. The mother was a young virgin with a powerful understanding of call and justice. The father was not the biological father, but he was committed to this young woman. And the baby was both human and divine. That’s not exactly the stuff of office parties, cookie exchanges, or Hallmark TV movies, is it?
Great acts of love in Jesus’ name
It is in the mystery and miracle of this Christmas story that God comes to us, right into our pandemic-filled lives. In Jesus’ birth, life, death, and resurrection, we come to know the way of love. We learn that even the most unlikely people—even we ourselves—can complete great acts of love in Jesus’ name.
In her book Love Heals, Becca Stevens, Episcopal priest and founder of Thistle Farms, reminds us that “Christmas doesn’t just come in neatly wrapped presents. It comes in our beautiful messy attempts to love each other.”
We may get few neatly wrapped presents this Christmas. Many of us have lost jobs. Some have had to spend down savings to cover rent or mortgage payments, or food. Others have little time to create a gift or figure out how to buy a present because of long hours spent working.
However, this Christmas season can be filled with our beautiful, messy attempts to love each other. First, we start by loving ourselves, for Jesus directed that we are to love our neighbors as ourselves. We can begin by cutting ourselves some slack. We are doing our best in the middle of a global pandemic. Perfection is not expected.
We just need to show up and do the best we can, and we need to admit when we are exhausted and get some rest. We must bring all the creativity and grace we can muster. And then we can step up with our beautiful, messy attempts to love each other. And it will be Christmas once again.
Linda Post Bushkofsky is executive director of Women of the ELCA. This blog first ran as a Grace Notes column in the December 2020 issue of Gather magazine.