Social distancing. Canceled events. Little (if any) time with extended family. After nine months of the many precautions that have accompanied the Covid-19 pandemic, we’re all probably pretty weary. 2020 has been a rough road, to say the least. Now, with Christmas on the horizon, the idea of celebrating the season with limits and restrictions may seem awfully discouraging.
This year’s commemoration of Jesus’ birth definitely won’t be the holiday we’re used to. But with a bit of perspective and positivity, it just might be possible to see a silver lining in the difficulties we’re facing. Here are three ways to have yourself a surprisingly merry (and wonderfully holy) little Christmas, even in the midst of the pandemic.
Let go of holiday excesses
In the months leading up to Christmases past, we’ve probably all made promises to ourselves. Maybe you told yourself you wouldn’t let your spending get out of hand, wouldn’t let stress levels rise too high, or wouldn’t overcommit yourself to too many events.
And now, here we are in a year that might just allow us to do all of these things.
A pared-down Christmas, though painful in some ways, could be the relief your spirit has longed for in years gone by. Letting go of the need (or even the ability) to “do it all” this year offers the hidden blessings of peace and quiet. Less time spent running around shopping or cooking for a crowd means more quality time with your inner circle—or more opportunity to simply contemplate the real reason we celebrate: the coming of our Lord as the infant in the manger.
Meanwhile, if shipping delays or hoarding have left stores with limited supplies of the gifts you’re looking for, try simpler local or handmade presents. The time you put into something homemade brings a unique touch to your gift-giving, while buying close to home supports your local economy.
Find value in suffering
We live in a world that doesn’t value suffering—but as Catholic Christians, we know there is great redemptive power in bearing with hard times. During the Advent season at the end of this challenging year, perhaps we can tune in to the emotional weight Jesus’ human parents carried leading up to his birth. Imagine Mary’s discomfort traveling on a donkey at the end of her pregnancy, or Joseph’s anxiety for his wife and child. In spite of their uncertainties, Christ’s mother and father remained faithful to God’s calling on their lives. Could their steadfastness inspire more long-suffering and patience in us?
Jesus, too, is always intimate with our struggles. In taking on human flesh, He experienced what it meant to live the frustrations, sorrows, and disappointments of the human life. Even now, He knows our hearts’ every concern, whether a job loss, a relative fighting Covid-19, or our loneliness for the friends and family we’d normally celebrate with.
In the words of St. Padre Pio, “The more you are afflicted, the more you ought to rejoice, because in the fire of tribulation, the soul will become pure gold.” We’ve been offered a unique gift in 2020: the ability to offer our suffering to Jesus as a gateway to joy and deeper union with Him.
Remember the good in a tough year
The end of the year is all about perspective. In the extra quiet moments of this more subdued Christmas season, we can all reflect on the 12 months past. (There’s probably plenty of fodder for reflection!) What did you learn? What did you realize was really important? What would you have done differently? Where do you see God was at work in your life, even if you didn’t realize it at the time?
With the slowed pace of a Covid-19 Christmas, allow these reflections to provide an emotional and spiritual reset. Then rest in the knowledge that, no matter what lies ahead, you can look to the future with clarity and peace.
Sarah Garone is a Catholic nutritionist, writer, and food blogger. She lives in Mesa, AZ with her husband and three children. Find her sharing down-to-earth nutrition info and (mostly!) healthy recipes at www.ALoveLettertoFood.com.
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