An Unexpected Kindness for an Unexpected Christmas
For such a ‘slow’ year, it feels like Christmas is approaching pretty fast. The magical appearance of Christmas decorations in Westfield from October used to irk me as crass commercialism, but this year I’m finding it strangely comforting.
But even though the rush to Christmas feels familiar, this year won’t be the Christmas we’ve come to expect each December. State border closures and pricey airfares might mean the family Christmas lunch takes place on Zoom (pants optional), or that gift for your sister in Adelaide will arrive just in time for Australia Day. Most work Christmas parties will be muted or cancelled, and I don’t think many of our friends will be heading home to the UK this year.
And there won’t be any Christmas crowds, with Coogee Carols and Coogee Sparkles now cancelled as a precaution. The giant Clovelly Street Party that our church hosts every year for our community is off too, but at least we have a date for 2021. This year, COVID-19 really is the Christmas grinch.
Which is why the predictable arrival of Christmas trees and schmaltzy Muzak at Westfield Bondi Junction seems comforting this year. Even in a pandemic, Christmas still rolls around. It’s a welcome interruption to the monotony of daily case reports (here’s hoping for another ‘zero’) or the anxiety of new venue alerts (why does Westfield Bondi Junction have to be on the list again?!)
Maybe in this, ahem, ‘unprecedented’ year we might find ourselves more grateful than ever come Christmas. Even if we lost Origin one, New South Wales is number one out of all the places in the world I’d like to be right now.
Perhaps we can meet this unexpected Christmas with unexpected kindness. This year our church is collecting for food and toy hampers to provide for families in need. Maybe you could invite a neighbour or student for Christmas lunch who’d otherwise be on their own, send a thank you to someone who can’t afford not to work on Christmas Day, or donate to one of the charities seeking to #endcovidforall – not just for those of us blessed to call Australia home.
Of course, the first Christmas was unexpected from the beginning. Into a world burdened under the brutality of the Roman Empire and the crushing demands of religion, the face of hope wasn’t a new calendar year or a new president, but a newborn. A baby boy, born to an unwed mother, in a backwater town, with smelly shepherds for his first visitors and a family that were soon refugees in a foreign land.
But what no one ever expected was what Christians celebrate as the ultimate good news: that God loved us all in spite of all our faults and still sent his Son to save us all. It certainly wasn’t expected – a God who loved humanity was unheard of in the pagan world – but the message of Christmas has been a welcome interruption for over two thousand years now. It’s a message of joy to a world still troubled by plagues and poverty. It’s a message of peace in a world increasingly divided and distanced. It’s a message of God’s love that we didn’t expect and don’t deserve.
So, even if this year is an unexpected Christmas, we can still celebrate with unexpected kindness.