When you read this, Thanksgiving will be passed, Advent will be here, and Christmas will be on its way. This is a holiday season such as none of us has ever seen. I don’t know about you but I’m getting a bit tired of the word “unprecedented,” and long for some more times that seem just plain ordinary. As you know, Covid-19 infections and cases are on the rise in our area as in most of the country. Recently, the Church Council decided that for everyone’s safety, we would return to remote worship only, through the end of 2020 and into January 2021. I understand that this may be a hardship for some people. Zoom service either does not work or is not accessible to many folks in our congregation. I am sorry if this seems somehow unfair or unfaithful to you. I suggest you consider the issue from this perspective: We do not gather in person now so that when we are able to do so again, no one will be missing. I believe our responses and plans are faithful.
This will be an Advent and Christmas season that tests our abilities to connect with families, friends, and faith traditions too. But Covid-19 and caution cannot keep Christmas from coming any more than the Grinch could in the Dr. Seuss classic story. Each of us must find ways to keep the season and to celebrate its meaning. That meaning is not diminished by our caution. That meaning is that God so loved the world as to send Jesus Christ, the only begotten of God, to us as a fully human person. Jesus was born, and lived, and taught, and died, and rose again to show God’s love for humankind – so much love that God became one of us. Incarnating in human flesh, God redeems the flesh of all humankind.
Ways to keep the season while staying safe will vary from person to person. Here are some ideas: Put up your decorations early. Listen to Christmas music, religious or secular. Watch a holiday movie with a loved one who is distant while talking on the phone or over social media. Remember to give generously to others and to receive gifts with grace and thanks. These may not be the “things” we often exchange, but rather are in the form of prayers, expressions of love, or friendship, or support. Go for a ride to see peoples’ outside decorations. I am sure you can think of other ways too.
The church will be here to help, even if we cannot gather indoors in person. We shall have traditional Advent services through Zoom. If you cannot Zoom but have internet, the recorded services can be accessed on the church’s YouTube channel (Bristol UCC). I will get the Advent services uploaded by Sunday evening each week. There will be religious specials and services available on television and the internet. Don’t overdo it, but feel free to get what you need through that medium. Stop by the church or call me at home for Christmas prayer or chat. See the calendar for my hours at church and assume I'm working form home Mon-Thurs. Finally, if you feel up to it and restrictions don’t tighten even further, we will have an in-person, outdoor candlelight gathering at 7 on Christmas Eve. I hope to use the front lawn at church but the parking lot will do. We’ll hear the Christmas gospels, say a Christmas prayer, and pass the light of Christ while quietly singing or humming (through our mandatory masks) Silent Night. Make sure you are dressed for the weather.
This Christmas WILL be happy and holy when we remember what is important – God’s love for us and our love for each other. Finding ways to express that to ourselves and loved ones WILL make the season bright. And remember what Tiny Tim, the Dickens character says: “God bless us, every one!”
May your Christmas blessings abound,