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Editorial: Christmas hope

  • November 19, 2020

There was a headline on a story from a reputable Canadian website earlier this month that posed a rather startling question: “Will COVID-19 kill Christmas?”

The story went on to describe the various ways the coming holiday season is being impacted by this deadly pandemic: no large family gatherings, no Christmas tree, no travelling, fewer presents, no parties, no parade, no sitting on Santa’s knee … the list goes on.

Granted, these are all enjoyable experiences that add to the seasonal joy … but “kill Christmas?” Not a chance.

Christ is coming, of that there is no doubt, and what He has to offer the world can’t be found under a tree or in a store or any of the places where COVID-19 might be spreading.

Of course, even for the faithful, Christmas is going to be different. The hope that we might somehow avoid the impact of a “second wave” of this eight-month-old nightmare has long since evaporated. After most Canadian churches were able to re-open with restrictions as summer approached, there was an air of anticipation — “surely we have conquered this beast and we’ll be back to normal in no time.”

Unfortunately, viruses don’t work like that. As we settle into the knowledge that there isn’t going to be any “normal” until a vaccine rescues us sometime next year (fingers crossed!), we are also settling into a different rhythm of life, where masks and social distancing set the tone.

For many, that life includes not going to church regularly, or perhaps not at all. The houses of worship have become an oasis of prayer and public Mass for the few, though thankfully many pastors have taken to livestreaming and exploring new ways to connect to their parishioners. They may have to re-double efforts if the pandemic gets worse and restrictions on churches increase, as in other parts of the world.

So, yes, COVID has definitely put a dent in our spiritual lives. Yet, there is also a certain “keep calm and carry on” attitude as we look toward Advent and Christmas. In Rome, as will be the case at countless churches here, the Nativity scene will be erected, Christmas trees will go up and preparing for the Lord’s coming will continue.

“This year, more than ever, the staging of the traditional space dedicated to Christmas in St. Peter’s Square is meant to be a sign of hope and trust for the whole world,” the Vatican said in a statement. “It expresses the certainty that Jesus comes among His people to save and console them.”

In church and in homes, Advent candles will be lit and families — safely enveloped in their bubble — can keep whatever traditions they have. Christmas carols in church won’t have the usual high volume when sung only by a cantor, but they will be no less endearing to our ears, or hearts.

On Christmas morn, wherever we are, the Good News will still arrive and, if we let it, will stir our soul. COVID-19 could never kill that feeling.

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