December 15, 2021
It’s Christmas Time in the City
Christmas is always a special time in New York City. With the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, the department store window displays, and the throngs of tourists and shoppers, the city sparkles, bustles, and hums during the holiday season. After settling for virtual events and subdued celebrations in 2020, there is plenty of pent-up demand and even expectations for a “normal” New York Christmas this year.
And I know that this sentiment is shared by people throughout the country and even the world – we need a normal Christmas, and we need it now.
Since the COVID 19 pandemic began over 20 months ago, all of us have been longing for returning to normal as quickly as possible. Yet, at the same time, we realize that life, as we knew it, will never be the same. And probably, Christmas, as we knew it, will never be the same as well. While many of our typical holiday practices are beginning to return, we are also faced with the threat of a new Omicron variant, supply chain shortages and delays, inflation, and the continued need for masks, vaccines, and testing.
So much for a normal Christmas.
But maybe Christmas, as life itself, is not meant to be normal. After all, the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem over two thousand years ago was anything but a normal event in human history. Even the angels, shepherds and wisemen, who celebrated and praised the newborn baby in the manger, did not fully recognize or appreciate the true significance of the Incarnation - God becoming one of us. Little did they know that this Jesus, by his birth, death, resurrection, and ascension, would transform the world. And this process of transformation was not a one-shot deal, nor can it be described as normal in any usual or typical way.
The mystery and the poignancy of the Incarnation is that it is not just a moment in time, but an ongoing process that is constantly morphing and changing. Through the ongoing presence of Jesus in our lives, God invites us to be part of God’s plan. And just like generations before us, we enter God’s transformational process with all our human foibles and weaknesses and in our own time and place.
Thus, each year at Christmas, while the original story may remain the same, the context is different. Whether it is just being one year older or having undergone a significant personal or societal upheaval, we are different this year than last as we will be one year from now. The only constant is the ongoing and continued presence of God in our lives in the person of Jesus. That is why we celebrate Christmas - to remind ourselves that God became one of us, totally and utterly understands the human condition, and will never abandon us nor renege on the promise of salvation.
On behalf of the board and staff of the Episcopal Church Foundation, I wish you and your loved ones a Christmas filled with joy, hope and promise. And maybe that’s what a normal Christmas should be all about.