The War on Christmas seems to get earlier every year.
It seems that today, a nice round forty days before Christmas, Doctor Fauchi appeared on television talking about social distancing and how we’ll all have to be extremely careful during this surge in coronavirus cases. A vaccine won’t be widely distributed for some time yet, and even as it’s being distributed we’ll have to take care. Jake Tapper morosely replied “Christmas is not going to be possible.” And the internet went wild. Some people say this is Christian persecution, the one we’ve all been gearing up for ever since department store clerks started to say “Happy Holidays,” the cancellation of Christmas.
These people need to calm down.
No one is saying Christmas is cancelled. First of all, it’s impossible to cancel something that’s already happened. Christ was born for the salvation of Mankind, and most Christians commemorate His nativity on the 25th of December; the rest that I’m aware of do so on January 7th. Both of those dates are going to happen this winter.
And no one is saying you can’t celebrate Christmas. You absolutely can. Advent and Christmas are still going to happen this year. You and your immediate household can light an advent wreath and read the Divine Office and put ornaments on a Jesse Tree at home, as you get ready for the big day. You can even arrange a time to pray with other families as you do this, over Zoom or something. You and your immediate household can go to Mass, if there’s a church enforcing safe social distancing protocols or a socially distant outdoor Mass or a parking lot Mass near you. If you can’t find one of those, you can pray along with Mass on a livestream, just as you would if you were sick on any other Christmas. That’s what all these social distancing protocols are, after all. They’re not a weird form of punishment. They’re getting everyone to pretend they’re already sick and don’t want to spread it, because COVID-19 can incubate so long inside of a person before they realize they’re sick. It’s a sin against charity to neglect to social distance when you’re contagious. And the terrible thing about COVID-19 is, you never quite know if you’re contagious. But you can still pray along with the Mass, in some fashion.
You can decorate for Christmas. You can put up a tree or two or five indoors. You can festoon the outside of your house with all the colored lights and inflatable sculptures you want. You can construct a life sized Nativity on the lawn. You can put luminaries up and down your sidewalk. You and your immediate household can walk or drive around the neighborhood, admiring the pretty lights. You can sing Christmas carols to your neighbors from the street as they admire your voices from the porch, if you want to. You can run up to the porch and leave a plate of cookies at their door, then run back down and sing carols until they open it. That might be nice.
If your municipality has an outdoor Christmas display, like Steubenville has The Nutcracker Village, you can visit it at an uncrowded time and admire the decorations. I can’t wait to do that.
You can exchange gifts with your loved ones and have Santa bring pile of presents for your kids. You can buy the gifts at stores that are carefully enforcing social distancing, and you can also order them online; then you can wrap them beautifully and mail them to the people you love. Be sure to make an effort to patronize small local businesses for your gift-giving more than ever this year. Amazon and other corporations have made bank during the COVID-19 pandemic, but small mom and pop stores have suffered horribly.
You can watch all the Christmas movies you like, and there are hundreds. Some people like Hallmark Christmas cheese. Some people like to watch The Nutcracker. My favorite challenge is to watch as many different versions of A Christmas Carol as you can get your hands on. There’s a big-budget musical starring Albert Finney that I love, there’s a version with Patrick Stewart that’s faithful to the book, a cartoon by the person who made The Snowman, there’s a Flintstones one, a five-minute Warner Brothers cartoon with Yosemite Sam as Scrooge, there’s Mr. Magoo, the Muppets, there must be a hundred or more. Watch a new version of A Christmas Carol every night in your PJ’s if you want to. Get a group of your friends to watch at the same time and live tweet it on social media. It could be great.
You can still cook a Christmas dinner for your immediate household. Have a great big Italian feast like we Pezzulos always do even though we’re barely Italian in spite of the name. I make lasagna bolognese and spaghetti and meatballs and fetuccini alfredo and Italian sausage and risotto. If Italian isn’t your thing, you can have roast goose and plum pudding, or tamales or Tikka Masala or anything you like. Make mulled wine and egg nog. Bake cookies and cakes. Eat your feast in front of A Christmas Carol if you want to.
You can still give to charity and help your community– in fact, we need that now more than ever.
You were going to do that, right?
The Works of Mercy are a necessary part of our religious practice as Christians, you know. Christ made it very explicit that that was how He’d separate the sheep from the goats. Christmas is a wonderful time to recall yourself to that duty and start being as active in helping your neighbor as you ought.
Here at Steel Magnificat, we’re going to do what we always do and boost the signal for local poor who need a hand. I’ll keep you in the loop about what The Friendship Room needs; I’ll also be checking with local parishes arranging giving trees so I can do on purpose what I ended up doing by chance last year and help everybody get their gifts, and there’ll be some kind of official crowdfund to pay for that if it ends up happening. But of course, you should also be looking around for Lazarus on your own doorstep. What can you do to help Christ in the disguise of the poor, in your own community? How can you make a positive impact where you live?
That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown. The God of Mercy descended to Earth and became Man, for our sake, to suffer with us and draw us up to where He is. We who follow Christ must be merciful as Christ.
No, it probably won’t be possible to drive to Grandmother’s house this Christmas or get together in a big crowded church, or to visit a jam-packed mall. There probably won’t be a Christmas parade and a lot of Christmas plays and such have been cancelled. That’s legitimately sad. It’s horrible. We can take time to mourn that.
And then we can look around us, and decide how we’re going to celebrate the Nativity of Christ anyway. Because the glorious solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord is going to happen, no matter what. In this dreadful dark year, it’s our responsibility as Christians to figure out how we’re going to spread His beautiful light to the world without causing more death and suffering in the process. It will take courage, patience and creativity. But we can do it. And we’ll be that much more likely to live to celebrate a much merrier Christmas next year if we do.
Now, what are you going to do?
Image via Pixabay.
Mary Pezzulo is the author of Meditations on the Way of the Cross.
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