Christmas is coming, and this year’s preparations will be very different than in other years, due to COVID-19. Last December, our household goods from Charlotte arrived at our home in Woodstock on December 18. It was a crazy, hectic day, in the midst of a crazy hectic month that included my first Advent at St. Paul’s. The movers got to our boxes of Christmas decorations, and assumed I wanted them in the living room so I could decorate. “No,” I said, “put them in the basement.” There was simply no way I would be able to pull off decorating, unpacking, and all the activities at St. Paul’s. The only decorating I managed was to put a wreath on the front door, hang a few garlands of greens and bows on the front porch, and put a few tiny red Christmas bulbs on one of my houseplants. Christmas happened, including the magnificent Hanging of the Greens, the Singing Christmas Tree, and Christmas Eve Candlelight Communion worship service. Decorations last year seemed superfluous.
But not this year. Putting up and decorating the Christmas Tree, hanging stockings on the mantle, displaying our nativity set seems imperative this year. I’ve been anticipating it since early November. It feels like a declaration of hope in the season of so many trails and troubles, a sort of in-your-face gesture to COVID-19, “You cannot take my hope away!” It is planting the flag on Iwo Jima.
Smack-dab in the little book of Lamentations, there is a tiny flicker of hope planted right in the middle of chapter 3, Jeremiah, the weeping prophet’s in-despair’s face words. “I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore, I will wait for him.”
In the season, any bit of hope we can muster will do: getting out of the bed in the morning, taking time to pray, writing a card, calling a friend, opening your blinds to let the daylight in, looking out the window at the beauty of creation. Find something, anything, no matter how small to plant your flag of hope.
The decorating is finished. I declare that because of the Lord’s great love, we are not consumed. Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.
Take that, COVID! ~ Anne