Politics. Pandemic. Unemployment. Riots. Fear. Shootings. Racial marches and murders. Natural disasters. Looting. Increasing poverty. Homelessness. Scandals. Anxiety. Warfare between neighbors in neighborhoods and countries. Shortages of food, soaring prices, and empty shelves in stores. Children separated from parents and kept incarcerated. Churches, businesses, and schools closed. The list could go on and on, it seems.
The year 2020 has undoubtedly been one that I think most people would like to forget. It hasn’t been one to brag about, honestly.
I’ve been thinking about all the negativities we’ve been putting up with lately. It truly isn’t something new, just a kind of tornado of things all at once, it seems. Like a house of cards or a tower of wooden blocks, it could fall over or blow over at any second. Oh, did I mention lots of recent earthquakes, perhaps not immense ones, but large enough to cause damage and death? Also, there are hurricanes, monsoons (except in Arizona), fires, and other natural disasters and diseases that have shaken the world a bit. No, 2020 probably won’t go down as the most fantastic year in the history of the world, and much of the world will be very glad to see January 1 come in.
But I’ve started thinking about friends and loved ones who have come and gone in my life. Just in the next few weeks, my best friend celebrates her birthday. Two dearly loved friends would celebrate their birthdays had they lived until this year. My late husband would also have turned 100, and we would have had another anniversary, but those are simply memories now. On the plus side, I have another anniversary of sorts, the eighth year of being cancer-free following my surgery. There are a lot of things to remember, both with joy and sadness, and all of them can be seen separately from the list of negatives I listed at the beginning of this reflection.
With all the turmoil and such we have around us today, people still have anniversaries and birthdays. Children are born, and people of all ages die of various causes and reasons. While deaths are often tragedies, they can be relief from pain and suffering, both for the patient and their families. Not all can be like that, though. The shooting death of a young person at the hands of law enforcement, or an innocent victim of a drive-by shooting, the mugging death of an older adult, or even the drowning of a young but unsupervised child in a pool or bathtub are all things that could be prevented. Could be, if we just tried to prevent them.
Still, there are celebrations like a baby shower, an adoption, a wedding, a 50th, 60th, or 75th anniversary, the completion of an educational course, the start of kindergarten or college, the purchase of a new house, starting a new job, and a hundred small things that represent family traditions or reasons for parties. Unfortunately, so many of these get-togethers have been curtailed this year because of the pandemic, and so many have felt depressed or deprived because they can’t have the hugs that would accompany such events. Many devout prayers are going up that next year will not be a repeat of this one.
There is one more celebration that we can’t share at this present time as we would typically do, and that is the celebration of the Eucharist as a community gathered in one place. Churches have done their best to present videos and Zoom meetings to bring the service to people who have access to online or streaming services. At the Peace, hugs can’t be exchanged, and the bread and wine of the Eucharist itself can’t be blessed and given personally to those who would present themselves at the altar. Still, we hear the Word of the Lord, the praise of the Psalms, the presentation of the Gospel, and the sermon that helps us understand what has been read, and how we can use those words to go out into the world, as much as we are able, to do good and show the love of Christ to all people.
There are also daily services for those who are at home, probably more services than they have ever attended before. There are services of Compline to conclude the day with prayer, reflection, and quiet music. Those too are celebrations in their own way.
So as I sit and ponder, I have concluded that I should pay more attention to the celebrations put before me and less to the gloom and doom list that I seem to run into everywhere. I should be thinking of every day as a celebration of life – mine and others – and give thanks for the beauty and goodness around me, no matter how hard that might be to find sometimes.
Happy birthday, happy anniversary, happy graduation, congratulations on your wedding, anniversary, new baby, new house, new job, and any other cause for rejoicing, even small ones like the cat getting off the table when asked (that’s a real celebration around here!)
Praise the Lord for all that is good, and even stuff that may be bad at the time but which later on may be revealed as something quite the opposite. The pandemic may have shown us that we are all brothers and sisters in the same boat, we are all responsible for one another, and we can still pull together to help each other get through this time. We are stronger because we can do things we didn’t know we could, and that’s a lesson we can take with us throughout the rest of our lives.
Oh, and one more thing. God is with us, in good times and bad, and loves it when we express joy and thanks. Be sure to invite God to your next celebration, even if it is just the two of you.
Image: Namnsdag A Day of Celebration, by Fanny Brate, 1902, from the National Museum, Stockholm, Sweden. Found at Wikimedia Commons.