At the time of writing this article, it seems fairly certain that Canadians will not be permitted to gather during this year’s Christmas celebrations. Moreover, large family gatherings will also be cancelled. We are, right now, at the most significant spike of the disease. Even though a vaccine seems maddingly close, it is not close enough to grant us relief this Christmas.
Therefore, is Christmas cancelled? My church is planning a Christmas celebration online. I am sure that my church will do the very best we can. But it will seem much less than we wanted. Furthermore, the gathering together of extended families will also be cancelled. Those churches that traditionally celebrate with an elaborate production of some sort, in which church members are encouraged to bring their non-Christian friends will not occur. Christmas has not been cancelled, but our traditional means of celebrating Christmas has surely been cancelled.
For those who have children living at home with them, there are still a number of celebrations that will remain unchanged. A great many Christian families begin Christmas Sunday by reading Scripture as a family and then thanking God for the birth of his Son. That will continue. They will also open their presents and eat a hearty meal.
But there are others who will not celebrate this way. For the first time in the history of our nation, single adults outnumber married adults. Hence, families are becoming a minority experience. Some of these people will spend Christmas home alone. Others, like my wife and I, whose children have moved out, will celebrate Christmas between the two of us alone. Rather than a house filled to overflowing, with shouts of joy, chaos and laughter filling the house, our house will seem strangely empty. Whatever celebrations exist this year, will be severely muted.
For my part, I would not wish to waste this opportunity. This is because the actual account of Christmas is not the account of a full house overflowing in a land of plenty. The real story of Christmas is the story of light coming in a world of darkness. Men and women prefer darkness to light, and thus the coming of our saviour was an unwelcome intrusion into this world. Our saviour’s birth occurred in less-than-ideal circumstances. The rage and jealousy of Herod made the holy family into a refugee family. John sums up the story of Christmas with the line, “He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.” (John 1:11)
Christmas should remind us, that this world is dark. It lacks light. It is morally depraved, and it is fallen. It is no surprise that disease stalks the land. Adam’s sin brought death. But Christmas also reminds us, that a saviour has been born into a dark world.
For this reason, perhaps this year is ideal for celebrating Christmas. Christmas was never really about an overflowing table, but about an empty one. If you are alone at Christmas, remember that the message of Christmas is that we need a saviour. Without one, we will perish.
How then, shall we celebrate. Kathy and I will be on Zoom with family. We are grateful for this bit of technology. But we will also reflect, that meagre times need hope. That’s the true message of Christmas.