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By Laurel Pattenden

As we journey through Advent and get nearer to Christmas, I am hearing more and more comments like “This Christmas is going to be so different!”

We find ourselves together, with the whole world, in the same boat, as we are all affected in some way by this pandemic. It has affected all groups of people with a universality that no political agenda could create. No matter what our birth status, economic status, political status we are all considered touchable by this virus. Granted, perhaps not equally, but indeed affected.

Just as our everyday routines have been affected we project this feeling on to the coming Christmas season. Truly, it will be affected, but I don’t want the virus to ruin Christmas. As the saying goes “Christmas comes just once a year!”. So I decided to give some thought on how Christmas will be Christmas, virus or not.

The following points are what I came up with.

Starting at the end of the Christmas story with Joseph, Mary and Jesus fleeing to Egypt for safety. Their time in exile was needed for Jesus to be, well, safe. Was this the first example of social distancing to be safe?

Every year we walk to the manger during Advent and Jesus is beside us. Guiding our way and helping us to not get lost along the road. When we get to the manger we are assured that it is filled. He was there all along! The Christ Child is there, and always will be. That was promised, and so we acknowledge this promise. The manger is full, virus or not.

Perhaps the virus is changing our shopping and gifting habits. However, the shepherds arrived empty handed but full hearted at the first Christmas. Be thankful to those shepherds for precedent has been set! So drop the gifting anxiety this year because of the virus. Actually, let’s drop the gifting anxiety from now on. Perhaps this can become the new normal! Of course, if you are a wealthy king, do what you need to do.

The main point of my pondering comes from the the Easter story when Jesus appears  to the disciples in the locked room. He gets to them!  In a locked room! So, Christ will be with us. Nothing can shut him out. Surely not the places we will be? Surely not a mere virus? Is this not proof that Christmas can not be locked down? Especially in our hearts?

Yes, Christmas will be different from how we usually celebrate it. However, Christmas will not be different. We may be in exile to be safe. Jesus did it. Our walk in Advent may feel a bit stranger but we are not alone. Jesus is by our side. The gifts might not be piled so high but the manger is still under the tree. Jesus is in the manger. Our Christmas dinner may have fewer chairs around the table, because of the virus, but we rejoice!

Christmas can not be locked down! Nothing can hold back the birth of the Christ Child!  

Laurel is retired and likes to spend her time in her art studio.