Happy Holidays – Even This Year

This week’s Courier Herald column:

We’re now well into the holiday season and, thankfully and mercifully, the home stretch of 2020.  It’s been a year of a pandemic, social unrest, and an election that refuses to end.  Many of us will not be sad to see this year conclude.

I have no issue with the term “Happy Holidays” as there is more than one holiday in the season.  If you spend this week screaming “It’s Christmas! Say Merry Christmas!” then you should probably be aware that it’s actually Advent on the Christian Calendar and that Hanukkah runs from December 10th through December 18th.” 

Also be aware that yelling at a cashier or barista because their employer has “Happy Holidays” on their decorations isn’t likely to spread the love of Jesus that you profess.  That employee has zero input on corporate merchandising, but they may form their opinions on Christianity from how they are treated by Christians.

The “War on Christmas” is largely a diversion within conservative circles. It was concocted by consultants and activists who would prefer to whip a base into a perpetual frenzy rather than have their candidates take stands and pose solutions on actual problems of the day.

It’s not like we all didn’t know that wouldn’t end well, but I can’t say I would have thought it would have ended with a Republican President saying he was ashamed of a Republican Governor he previously endorsed, or the Georgia GOP suing the Republican Secretary of State, or the state of Texas suing the state of Georgia.  And yet, here we are.

Lest my left-of-center friends gloat too much over this criticism, I’d suggest they might want to check in on their own “war on holiday gatherings of peasants”.  Nothing gets me into a holiday spirit more than knowing Denver’s Mayor took the time to tweet from the airport to stay home and avoid travel for Thanksgiving before he flew away to meet his family. 

At least he flew commercial.  Austin’s Mayor flew on a private jet to Cabo San Lucas where he recorded a video urging Austin residents to stay home if possible. The trip was to attend a wedding gathering of more than ten people.

These are but mere short term blips in history.  The holidays we celebrate over the next 3 weeks have roots that are more than 2,000 years deep.  Despite all of the disruptions from “normal” this year, their significance is as relevant today as a couple of millennia ago.

Hanukkah is a celebration of the miracle of barely enough olive oil to light a temple menorah for one night, but the oil lasting for eight.  Many of us found ourselves unprepared for shutdowns that began in March.  After months of empty store shelves and closed supply chains, I think those of us of all faiths can appreciate a week of celebrating making what was provided for us last.

As for Christmas, it’s probably a good time to remember that the first one didn’t exactly go according to plan.  Joseph didn’t get engaged to Mary expecting to be a father immediately.  It was a census year, but they didn’t expect to end up delivering their baby in a barn while en route to pay their taxes. 

Their expectations were changed.  The result changed the world.

We all had our expectations of what 2020 would be like when it started.  I’m guessing there are very few of us are ending up where we thought we would be. 

These holidays, often overlapping on the calendar and sandwiched between Thanksgiving and New Year’s to complete a season, offer us a continuous path.  We begin by giving thanks for what we have.  We move on to a miracle that gives us a week out of supplies for a day.  Next, we have the gift of a child that offers us a fresh start and new beginning, leaving our past behind.  We then turn the page to a new year, and our own fresh start with 365 new days ahead of us to change our world.

2020 is a year we’re ready to leave behind.  First, we should celebrate our holidays.  Even this year.  Especially this year.

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