This Thursday is Christmas Eve, the night of my favorite church service at Selma First United Methodist — often done jointly with our friends at First Christian. We would gather at 11 p.m. for an hour of scripture readings and music, ending at Midnight with the congregation in a circle around the pews, holding candles and singing “Let there be Peace on Earth and let it begin with me.”
Then we would file into the foggy night and drive home.
Not this year. Not in freaking, frustrating, frightening 2020. Instead, we will watch on our computers, tablets and phones as our gang plays music and gives readings that were recorded several days earlier. I did my part last Saturday, reading from the first chapter of Matthew, the Advent story.
That’s how this Christmas goes. Many of our favorite traditions — such as welcoming friends and attending Holiday parties — have been rendered moot by a raging pandemic.
Disappointing, for sure. But is it really that horrible? Do I need to eat more candy and cookies? Can’t we still worship the birth of the Christ child in our sweats and pajamas? Should we tone down the gift-giving in the spirit of the pandemic?
It has been noted that this is a year of lowered expectations. My take is that we are in an era of different expectations.
Our family has memories of large Christmas celebrations — a drive over the Ridge Route to SoCal, where we gathered with brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, grandparents and cousins.
This week, there will be six of us at a house in Fresno. Gift-giving, lunch and then home to Selma. (Maybe a nap in there somewhere.)
Will that gathering be less meaningful because the guest list was small? Will my grandson be sad for not playing with his cousins, or will a video phone call suffice? Are the gifts less thoughtful?
And let us not forget that for many folks, this is a more difficult Holiday season than usual. Job insecurities, health concerns, school issues, forest fires, political divisiveness — it all piled on us in the devilish 2020. What does the Christmas spirit feel like for those who are suffering?
If you care, there are charities that help. If you can do it, consider a donation — your time or money — to one or more of them. In an era of lowered expectations, there are some families whose expectations have been downright shattered.
So let’s say a prayer and sing a hymn to the Christmas story. Let it warm our hearts, encourage us to embrace our family and keep the message on our minds.
Because no matter what your faith is, or even if you do not embrace one, this year, more than ever, let us all shout the words from the Christmas angel: “... on earth peace, good will toward men.”
Amen. Peace and grace to all.
Longtime Selma resident Ken Robison is a retired newspaper reporter, editor, columnist and photographer. “Selma Stories” appears regularly in The Enterprise.
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