‘I hate Christmas!’ he said matter of fact. What?! How can anyone hate Christmas? Obviously not spoken by a holiday reveller or follower of Christ. On closer examination and prompted by my ‘how can you even say that?’ I get a quizzical look and an answer, though not the one I was looking for.
I get a modified response from my acquaintance – who shall remain nameless – a little less severe but just as powerful. ‘Well, I hate the Christmas season.’ And that sentiment is probably shared by more than just a few.
Hold it! Let’s back up just a bit. Christmas and all its trappings is easily swallowed up by the countless children who’ve been indoctrinated from an early age to look forward to the magical season. Unfortunately, the appeal stems from a mythical figure and not the divine Christ Child.
Although to be fair, it all started with the right motivation and good intentions, derived from St. Nicholas, a Greek Bishop, living during the Roman era, circa 280 A.D. He was known to be a patron of many groups and his generosity to the impoverished was well-known. Perhaps that is where folklore took over and morphed the good bishop into a saintly figure who eventually became a giver of gifts to all children.
Sadly, the giving of gifts has taken on a whole different meaning, one that I’m sure was never intended. A poem by Clement Moore in 1822, entitled, A Visit from St. Nicholas, was well received by family and friends. However, once it was published under a new title, The Night before Christmas, it was quickly propelled into something not intended by the original author. The generous and wise St. Nicholas had transformed into a jolly rotund man who had the ability to whisk through the night sky on a magical sled pulled by reindeer no less.
Now better known as Santa Claus, the mystical figure no longer stems from central Europe but apparently lives at the North Pole, surrounded by elves who seem to do all the work. I trust they have a generous compensation package.
And with that revelation, everything has changed. Sure, we still have the nativity scene depicting the manger and baby Jesus, but all too often, it’s an after-thought and the figurines are relegated to the side or occupy a corner of the fireplace. The prominent display now consists of a large (often fake) over-decorated Christmas tree, its base filed with brightly coloured wrapped presents.
Hence the dislike for the so called Yuletide season. It’s changed so much that some even dread going to the local shopping centre, afraid of being accosted by the frenzy that accompanies harried shoppers.
‘That was then, and this is now’, as the saying goes. Fast forward to 2020. The pandemic swept into North America, slow at first, but it quickly gained momentum. The first ‘wave’ (infections) was manageable; but how many of us were prepared for that second wave of infections? Hospital wards are filled to capacity, staff are overworked, yet the patients keep coming. There was a glimmer of hope that if the public adhered to current restrictions, Christmas celebrations and gatherings were a possibility.
Unfortunately, with the latest case numbers still climbing, Christmas in 2020 will be anything but normal. The malls are in danger of being closed altogether, with most of the stores shuttered due to government regulations. People are encouraged – the Premier of Manitoba even pleaded on local TV – to abide by recent protocols and stay home if at all possible.
Over 2000 years ago, everything changed with the birth of the Christ child. There was the initial celebration by the shepherds and the Magi. That, however, was short-lived, as a ruthless dictator sought to destroy the hope God had given humanity.
We’re faced with a similar situation today. An unseen foe (virus) is attacking humanity. Much like Herod sought to destroy the most vulnerable (children), this pandemic is also seeking to kill the most vulnerable, albeit on the other end of the age spectrum.
The way I see it, we need to do our part by adhering to the health regulations, but also hold out hope, placing it in the One who gave it to us in the first place. We need to remember the elderly and pray for them, reaching out whenever possible. Let’s put Christ back into Christmas and joyfully proclaim, ‘I love Christmas.’