Well, despite everything that's happened this year, we made it to Christmas. We're all expected to be joyful, and for the most part, I am. I've always loved Christmas and the traditions associated with it; decorations, family gatherings, toys. (yes, as a 56 year old man I still expect to receive toys) But let's face it; Christmas 2020 might have it's work cut out for it if it expects to gloss over all of the blows this year has dealt out.
The biggest blow we've faced this year is the virus that's taken so many of our loved ones away. (over 300,000 in the US so far) At first, to me, just like many of you perhaps, the numbers were just numbers. Then, in August of this year, my brother Dale became one of the many who lost their lives to this pandemic. He was the last of my original family members; we had lost our parents a few years ago. Even though I have created a wonderful family with my wife Lynn, it is a strange kind of loneliness to realize that I am all that's left of the family I grew up in. To make matters worse, for a nation that has often pulled together in times of hardship, we seem to have let the pandemic divide us in so many ways. Disagreements over methods of prevention and mitigation have escalated into conspiracy theories, misinformation, and even attacks upon people who work in the area of public health.
And then there's politics. The political arena has always been contentious, but this year it has been especially so. It's to be expected I suppose; in a country of over 300 million people how do you not have disagreements? But it seems that so many are willing to put aside their integrity, compassion, and honor in their zeal to make sure their "side" wins. The concepts of compromise and working together for the common good have given way to the desire to ridicule, scandalize, and dishonor those we disagree with. It is a "win at all costs" attitude that seems to be costing us our very character and humanity.
Earlier this morning I read the account of the Christmas "truce" of 1914 during World War I. Despite opposition from their superiors, many German and British soldiers took it upon themselves to cease fighting for a time and exchange carols, small gifts, and even a good natured game of soccer with their enemies. For a short time, they focused on the things they had in common instead of the things that divided them. And yes, even though the truce soon ended and the battle began again, it gave a small place for hope to creep in.
Christmas, and even the earlier pagan winter celebrations before, have always been a time of hope. For the pre Christian peoples there was the hope that the worst of winter was behind them and longer days and springtime were on the way. For Christians, it became a time of celebrating the hope that the long awaited Messiah and Savior brought into the world.
I heard someone say that hope is not an emotion; it is a decision to act. Despite the hardships that 2020 brought and the ones that may arise in the coming year, I choose to celebrate hope this Christmas. I have hope that our nation, and our world, will work together to solve the problems that we face now, and in the years to come. And I hope that in some small way I can do my part to make a difference.
But first, I'm gonna unwrap the toys Santa brought me.