by The Rev. Megan E. Thomas
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given. Isaiah 9:6
There were no Nutcracker performances this year where I live. No choirs singing the Messiah—at least not in person. No stagings of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. (I did not hear the chastened and redeemed Mr. Scrooge promise to honor Christmas in his heart and keep it all the year.) My little congregation did not hold its Christmas caroling party on the patio. We did not offer our candlelit Lessons and Carols service. How we miss these beloved seasonal events. And though some congregations have enjoyed virtual concerts and hosted video watch-parties, and many are worshiping today by Zoom or Facebook live, well, “it’s not the same.” We did not hug the youth group members now home from college, or greet those who come for Christmas and Easter, or meet our parishioners’ extended family and houseguests.
No, it’s not at all the way it should be, even when we are making do and doing our best. As the psalmist wrote, “Many are saying, Oh, that we might see better times.” There is such a temptation to count our losses—very real losses, far more significant than lighting candles and singing carols—and lament. Truly, we lament the loss of too many lives, the loss of health, employment, education, safety, shelter, the nearness of family and friends. No one will end 2020 untouched by all that we have lost in the past year.
And yet, we still commemorate the moment that the God of creation chose to enter human history, in a time and a place that held its fair share of loss, of poverty, disease, death and oppression. We hear again the stories of Jesus’ birth as told in the Gospels of Luke and Matthew. We remember that Joseph and Mary traveled far from home because the emperor wanted a census. We remember that there was no room for an expectant mother in the inn at Bethlehem, so she gave birth among the livestock and placed the Baby in their feeding trough. We remember that singular poor and weary family, who like so many others sought comfort and safety in a poor old weary world.
This Christmas season, we remember that in the midst of loss, all is not lost: God is with us. You see, unto us the Child was born, unto us the Son was given.