Around the world, in countries and communities whether Christian or not, people will be striving to make this a wonderful Christmas.
Closed borders will be opened, albeit briefly and only for Santa Claus, who will also be exempt from quarantine, so he can deliver his gifts. We will do this for the sake of the children who have suffered much during this year, 2020, the year of the pandemic, a year like no other in living memory. The children have missed many days of schooling and as many days engaging in the play and recreation necessary to develop healthy minds and bodies.
Our own adult routines have been upset; our lives turned topsy-turvy. We Catholics have had to forego weekly Mass and participate remotely. We are thankful that technology at least allows this, though we miss the Eucharist.
Funerals, weddings, reunions, family gatherings, sporting events have all been postponed or radically altered. It is not easy to say goodbye to a loved one by watching the funeral service hundreds of miles away on YouTube.
Many have had to work remotely from home. Many have lost their jobs and their businesses. Governments have struggled to cope financially with the crisis and healthcare workers worldwide have been heroic in the struggle.
As a result of all this, our world has been gripped by anxiety, depression, and fear. In this situation, the words of the angel to Mary need to resonate in every heart: Do not be afraid!
We are invited to let go of our anxieties and fears because God takes on human flesh in the person of Jesus Christ to refocus our hearts and minds from the secular, from the contingent, from the things that shall pass away.
Advent is waiting in Hope. It is not a passive waiting for something or someone to take us out of the depths of depression and despair. Rather it is an expectant and proactive waiting, energised by the confidence we have in Jesus Christ.
It is a confidence, using our God-given talents, that allows us to develop several vaccines in a short period of time, to develop novel therapeutics to treat those who become ill thus decreasing mortality.
To sustain the social discipline to do what we need to do to minimise the spread of the disease, and to provide assistance to those who are adversely affected, including the migrants and refugees among us.
Therefore, this is a Christmas which, in the shadow of the virus, should cause us to reflect on and celebrate its true meaning. The opportunity for such reflection is certainly there. We cannot do all the commercially driven activities we usually do. Social interaction outside of immediate households is limited. There are no Christmas parties, and in-person shopping is heavily curtailed. Without the usual noise and hustle and bustle, we have an open invitation to reflect.
Even as the coronavirus continues to surge in many countries, bringing more sickness and more deaths, for Christmas this year, families will try to get together to share a meal, to talk, to laugh, and to pray. If they cannot do so in person, they will do so virtually. These are the best Christmas gifts of all.
Christmas, the incarnation, the promise of salvation, is what we have been really hoping for. This is a special Christmas in which, with all its deprivations and strangeness, we can see clearly the realisation of the promise of Christ.
We need have no fear. Have a blessed, joyful, and holy Christmas.