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COVID-19 can’t stop Christmas


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Miriam Esteban Benito - published on 11/24/20

When we remember the true Christmas spirit, we can appreciate this day with its full meaning.

What will Christmas be like this year? Will the pandemic make it a very different holiday? Around this time every year, shop windows and streets are festooned with an abundance of holiday decorations, and stores are overflowing with gifts and toys.

If 2020 were a normal year, we’d be organizing our Christmas activities by now. What decorations should we buy for the house? Who’s in charge of Secret Santa? What day will the office Christmas party be held?

This year, there will be some new questions (and some of the old ones won’t apply): How many guests is a safe number? Will we even be able to share a meal with our family? Will there be a government-decreed shelter-in-place order?

By Yuganov Konstantin | SHUTTERSTOCK

This year, because of COVID-19, we’ll have to avoid large public events such as parades, festivals, and Christmas parties at the office. The word from health experts is that it’s unlikely the situation will improve enough for us to celebrate Christmas without restrictions. Going by current trends, some experts even suggest that by Christmas we may need to enter a new period of lockdown.


Read more:
Vatican’s 2020 Christmas stamps celebrate “Peace Light of Bethlehem”

Reinventing Christmas?

Given the situation, I ask myself: Do we really have to reinvent Christmas?

In the days before Christmas 2018, Pope Francis asked how God would want us to celebrate this holiday. This year, in the face of the pandemic, this question takes on even more meaning. Now, more than ever, we need to reflect on what kind of Christmas we want to live. At the time, in December 2018, Pope Francis said,

“To celebrate Christmas, then, is to receive on earth the surprises of Heaven … It is the celebration of an unprecedented God who overturns our logic and our expectations.”
Antoine Mekary | ALETEIA

The arrival of God radically changed Mary’s plans, and this year a virus has totally changed ours. The first of these events was the best thing ever to happen to humanity, while the latter feels like the opposite, but we can look to the Holy Family’s example in celebrating this unusual Christmas.

More than two thousand years ago, when Jesus was born, the general situation was no better. The family of Nazareth also encountered many “restrictions.” In obedience to a decree issued by Caesar Augustus, Joseph and Mary (who had few economic resources) traveled to Bethlehem. There, Mary “gave birth to her firstborn son, wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn” (Luke 2:7).

Days later, warned in a dream of the threat presented by Herod’s intention to murder the child, Joseph didn’t hesitate to set out with his family to emigrate to Egypt.

Christmas spirit

Christmas is always an opportunity that God puts before us to celebrate in a special way a promise that gives us hope. Pope Francis also said in December 2018,

“Christmas inaugurates a new epoch where life is not planned, but is given: where one no longer lives for oneself, on the basis of one’s own taste, but rather for God.”

In December 2011, then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio referred to a cartoon in which a girl told a friend what she had asked from her parents for Christmas: “She had asked her parents not to give her toys but to give her ‘Christmas spirit.’ Her parents were surprised, not understanding or knowing what to do.”

In the light of that cartoon, the now-pope asked an important question: What is the Christmas spirit? His answer: It’s the promise of hope that culminates in Jesus.

Let’s start by doing acts of generosity, both big and small, for others. These acts are a very important element, so that during this upcoming Advent season, hope may be the gift that shines the most. We are all called to give the world the hope we have received from Christ himself.

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Let’s be thankful for our many blessings, and share that attitude with others. This Christmas, let’s write and call those we love and those whom we know could use some extra company. Let’s show our family how lucky we are to be in touch at Christmas in spite of the distance. It is important to know how to value what we have. Let’s look at the flip side of the restrictions of COVID-19 and think that, through them, the Lord is making “all things new” (Revelation 21:5).

Ideas for living a COVID Christmas

Let’s set up the Nativity scene as a family, and take the opportunity to contemplate the story of St. Joseph, the Virgin Mary and the Child Jesus. This will help us become aware of the great gift we have received through our faith.

The manger of Bethlehem manifests the tenderness of God who has become a child to show us how close He is to every human being, in spite of the circumstances. In the stable of Bethlehem there’s room for each and every one of us. Shepherds, doctors, blacksmiths, nurses, car mechanics, office workers … people of all professions reflect the holiness of everyday life, our daily problems, and how Jesus shares with us His life, which can make even the most severe confinement extraordinary.

We don’t have to reinvent Christmas! We can really live a full Christmas, “without restrictions,” if we understand its true meaning. All we need is to know how to welcome the hopeful spirit of Christmas and spread it to everyone, as the shepherds of Bethlehem did. Our faces should shine with this spirit, in spite of difficulties or setbacks.

Will COVID-19 take Christmas away from us? Without a doubt, it will not. Let’s get rid of fear! Let’s make this our best Christmas ever.

Let us “open wide the doors to Christ” (St. John Paul II, October 22, 1978).


Read more:
New viral Christmas commercial shows community joy amidst COVID restrictions

One way to remember the spirit of Christmas is to share it with the children in our lives. These 12 Advent and Christmas picture books are perfect for reading aloud …

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