Christmas Greetings

Dear Friends of AFC,

Normally at this time of year, our neighbourhoods, shopping centres, restaurants, and churches don their holiday decorations and festive trimmings, and we, their delightful recipients, savour the anticipatory joy of the Christmas season. With my family’s Nordic traditions, we begin with an impassioned enjoyment of yuletide cuisine that is launched during Advent—an homage to the recipes that bring us together.

Alas, this year will be different. The usual jovial, celebratory tone we often experience around the holiday season is giving way to a more sombre one. As more than 11,000 Canadians have died from a pandemic that rages on in our communities, we are all looking for ways to celebrate without increasing our risk of contracting or spreading a potentially deadly virus. This year, we will have to adjust our expectations. If any of us is engaging in the mind-numbing calculus of whether to visit with family this year, in fact, the virus has already made the choice for us.

This fall, week after week, stories of increased coronavirus cases surged as well as indescribable loss. Writers who have put pen to paper about how this pandemic compares to other deadly events in our nation’s history make us literally drop our face in the palm of our hands with worry, even terror, at the prospect of what might be or could be around the corner.

Yet, sprinkled among these heart-wrenching statistics and stories are rays of hope with the possibility of a vaccine, giving us reason to await that light at the end of this long and dreary tunnel.

The place where I find respite is memories. I recognize the land of memory is not a desirable place for many, but for me it opens the door of nostalgic Decembers. I remember the Advent calendars of my youth, with a sprinkling of tinsel dust on roofs of the little village for snow and the windows we opened each day. I hear the sound of crunchy snow in Calgary where I grew up, searching for the perfect tree, and I can conjure up the smell of shortbread cookies, the whiffs of eggnog with nutmeg, the sweet and hot butterscotch sauce on warm fruit pudding. As author Fred Buechner says of Christmas:

“Although I’ve long since forgotten almost every present I ever got, I remember the dazzling light of it and the presence of all those people I one way or another loved and who one way or another loved me, and the feeling that life simply could never get any better than this, and the almost unbearable excitement of it.”

This Christmas may be like no other we have experienced, but I hope and pray that you will be able to find some real or memorable celebratory moments. The stakes are high this year, as we continue to live through what has been called “coronatide.” And so, may we continue to pray the deeply moving Advent prayer, adapted by Buechner:

 God grant that we may cast away the works of darkness, whatever they are, however we can, and put upon ourselves the armor of something at least a little like light as we wait for the truth of Christ to come finally and fully true at last. Amen.

I wish you all a blessed Advent and Christmas, as we continue to pray together for peace on earth and joy to the world.