Christmas for 2020 is like no Christmas in our memories, and we are talking much about those who will not gather around tree or table, and those who will risk getting together in spite of warnings and danger to others. Protecting those we love from our potential as “carriers” is high on our gift-list, and finding creative ways to connect and express love adds a new pleasure to overshadow the old familiar joys. Our conversations in family and congregation include the following:
1) Voices Together
Launch by MennoMedia was an astounding success for the 600 plus who were present online and for the many more who will see it by logging in at their leisure. “Jesus calls us,” the opening liturgy from the new worship resources began, and Jesus called us together. The choir in honey-comb-formation, the ensembles and solos, the introductions to new hymnody, the creative exploration of this constructive uniting project all unfolded in two hours of awe. The great Swiss theologian Karl Barth once said, “I would rather write a people’s hymns than do their theology.” In Voices Together, hymn and theology are one with careful selection and strengthening of texts. If you did not get to share in this yet, set aside time soon. See the video of Sunday’s service on the MennoMedia’s YouTube channel.
2) Stockings by hearth or boxes on porch?
First we each open our colorful stockings on Christmas morning—family tradition—now we find boxes and bags on the porch—current reality! No season is as replete with fun, sweet and holy traditions as Christmas. We will not read the Christmas story with robes, scarves making fun costumes and a tail for Mary’s donkey, but we will find a way to feel the holiness of the eve, share the love and compare cookies and tarts online. Nothing can keep us apart in spirit even though we honor the best advice of those who treat, trace and give caution.
3) Aunt Doris’ Raisin Cranberry Pie.
A year ago at mother’s funeral we saw Aunt Doris, and in the warm conversation told her that her pie is the best of all on the table, especially since Leann added orange zest. “What a wonderful idea,” she said, “You’ve made it better.” Now she too is gone. And as we talk of one mother’s pecan tassies, the other mother’s divinity, Ohio’s buckeyes, California’s almond toffee, we remember the many gifts of our family heritage. Peffernuesse (Ukraine), mince pie (Virginia). Potstickers (China) Blini and Borscht (Russia), tamales (Mexico) Cinnamon rolls (universal). We watch each other make them on screen, taste them in memory.
4) Mixed Emotions/Conflicted Emotions.
We sit in shock as we hear of family gatherings without caution. We look at each other aghast as we see Facebook pictures of dear friends celebrating face to face. We pray “Oh dear God,” as we read angry defiance of mask and distancing. We lament that politicizing the pandemic has made it a point of pride to ignore guidelines. Our family has experienced COVID. Our community is one of Los Angeles’ most flaming hot spots. Our nation is world infamous for its pestilence spreading. We talk to God about this, God seems to ask, “Why are you telling me, talk to each other!”
5) Advent, Waiting and Hoping.
Our Advent service focused on the link between “Wait” and “Hope” in the Hebrew language. Like the psalmist who says, “I wait for the Lord/and in his word do I hope.” “Both are forms of patience,” someone said. Yes, if one waits hopefully. No, if one waits irritably and angrily. So this week we are thinking of hope, or as Anabaptists called it, Gelassenheit, which David translates spiritually as “serene tenacity and tenacious serenity “ in Dissident Discipleship. Hope is holding on, hanging in, and hiding safely in God’s waiting room for hoping fools.