We are saving money — no plane tickets, no fancy restaurants, no Nutcracker this year. We are not seeing everyone we wish we were seeing, not doing everything we wish we were doing, and not having the Christmas we wish we were having. We could feel sorry for ourselves.
Why decorate if we are the only ones who are going to see it? Some of us have given everyone gift certificates and promised to do better next year. We sing only the last line of I’ll Be Home for Christmas — “if only in my dreams.”
Given how discouraging this year has been, one option is to go full-on Ebenezer Scrooge, “Bah humbug!” A visit from the ghost of Christmas past sounds good. We have had some fine Christmases past. The ghost of Christmas future does not sound bad, either. We’re sure 2021 has to be an improvement.
Maybe Christmas will feel normal next year. Maybe we will sit inside the restaurant rather than enjoy the 30-degree weather in a tent. Scrooge sounds so 2020 when he says, “If I could work my will, every idiot who goes about with ‘Merry Christmas’ on his lips should be boiled with his own pudding and buried with a stake of holly through his heart.”
We could be Walter Hobbs — Buddy the Elf’s heartless, stingy, Christmas-missing dad. We feel like cotton-headed ninny muggins. We could be an angry elf, sit on a throne of lies, and act like a son of a nutcracker.
We could be the Grinch with hearts two sizes too small: “Blast this Christmas music! It’s joyful and triumphant.” We could have evenings like the one the Grinch schedules: “4:00, wallow in self-pity; 4:30, stare into the abyss; 5:30, jazzercise; 6:30, dinner with me. I can’t cancel that again; 7:00, wrestle with my self-loathing. I’m booked. Of course, if I bump the loathing to 9, I could still be done in time to lay in bed, stare at the ceiling and slip slowly into madness.”
We could decide that since so much of Christmas has been stolen we should give up and just get through it.
“We have another option. We could be Tiny Tim.”
But we have another option. We could be Tiny Tim. We could ask God to “Bless us all, everyone.” Scrooge ends up promising: “I will honor Christmas in my heart and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the past, the present, and the future. The spirits of all three shall strive within me.’’
We could feel Christmas cheer like Buddy the Elf, because “there’s room for everyone on the Nice List.” We could “make gingerbread houses, and eat cookie dough, and go ice skating, and maybe even hold hands” — with people in our social pod.
We could learn what the Grinch learned — that Christmas “came without ribbons, it came without tags, it came without packages, boxes or bags. Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas perhaps means a little bit more.”
“Most years Christmas goes too fast. We can slow down this year.”
Most years Christmas goes too fast. We can slow down this year. We can remember the story — an angel, a teenage girl, a bewildered fiancé, a stable, shepherds, astrologers, a silent night, and joy to the world.
We can remember our best Christmas memories — children who were adorable, parents who were young, and us when we were even more attractive.
We can be grateful — even for what we have lost. We can give thanks for everyone who loves us, the roof over our heads and the friends who makes us laugh.
We may have to try harder to feel as thankful as we usually do this time of year, but gradually, by opening our hearts, we will find our way to Christmas.
Brett Younger serves as senior minister at Plymouth Church in Brooklyn, N.Y.