I love to hear the song, “Over the River and Through the Wood” during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. I’ve never forgotten it because it stirs up special memories.
When I hear it, it reminds me of my childhood and the family gatherings we had at my grandmother’s house at 312 Thompson Street in Hopkinsville, Kentucky. Many a holiday feast was prepared by big-hearted relatives in a tiny kitchen.
It’s not like we didn’t see each other often. Many of us lived in the same town. There was something refreshing about seeing familiar family faces during the holidays and hearing an older relative say, “I’m just so glad I got a chance to lay my eyes on you.” They understood that tomorrow wasn’t promised to any of us; so, they made sure to take full advantage of the moment.
God loves it when we praise Him in the moment. He loves it when we understand that He is the source of our joy and that He is the object of our prayer and praise. To paraphrase 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, we should always be joyful; always prayerful; always thankful in all circumstances.
Speaking of all circumstances, I had great expectations for 2020 for a number of reasons.
First of all, only once every one-hundred years does the first two digits of the year match the second two digits. Needless to say, January 1, 2020 was a special day for me. It marked day-one of a history-making year that included me. I was convinced It was going to be the year of big blessings and meaningful ministry.
Secondly, some of our favorite holidays would either be on a Friday, Saturday, or Monday in 2020, including Christmas. Can you say, “three-day weekend?”
Off and running in January. Picking up steam in February. Then came March. Lord, have mercy! A global pandemic, millions infected, hundreds of thousands of deaths, and an emergency shut down.
Stop! Don’t go to school! Don’t go to church! Don’t go to work! Go home and keep your distance until further notice. 2020 went from being a year to celebrate to a year to survive.
Covid-19 messed up my plans!
Will COVID steal Christmas?
And now, with memories of holiday gatherings past, all of us could be at home for Christmas. Our new reality is virtual. It’s good for some things; but, it’s a poor substitute for being face to face with family.
The pandemic is messing with our urge to merge as a family this holiday season. The Covid-19 Grinch is attempting to steal Christmas.
He’s already stolen handshakes, high fives and holy hugs. He’s already stolen last goodbyes from loved ones taking their final breath in an ICU bed. He’s already stolen family reunions, 4th of July barbeques and Thanksgiving gatherings. And now, he’s threatening to haul off Christmas Day drop ins.
All we need for Christmas is…
In the Dr. Seuss classic, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, the Grinch’s plans to spoil a Whoville Christmas gets flipped on its side. Turns out, he made a huge miscalculation. And in the last few lines of the movie, we hear the narrator say, “Christmas Day will always be, just as long, as we have we! All we need for Christmas is “we.”
As “we” enter this season of Advent, let’s take time to remember, celebrate and anticipate.
Let’s remember and celebrate how God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son.
Let’s remember and celebrate how the Word became flesh—dwelled among us—and died to save us.
Let’s anticipate that there is so much more of God’s love still waiting to be shared.
We may not be able to roast chestnuts on an open fire like we have in the past. We may not be able to get close enough to Jack Frost for him to nip us on our nose. But, none of those things ever represented the meaning of Christmas.
God is still good. As we continue to “faith” our way through this season, keep your eyes on what God is doing in you and through you. There are some good things happening. Look for them. Some of my greatest spiritual growth spirts came from moments of discomfort. For sure, we’ll all be closer to home this Christmas. Let’s be sure to get closer to God.
Rev. Irv White is Senior Pastor of Ashford United Methodist Church in Houston, Texas. Irv and the rest of his congregation would love to have you come worship with them next time you are in the area, or join them anytime online, the online links are located on the front of their webpage.
A Closer Christmas is brought to you by the Communications Department of the Texas Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. To be considered as a future blogger, please contact Shannon W. Martin, Director of Communication at Click to email.