A Long Wait

A COVID Christmas
Reflections on a COVID Christmas

By Nathalie Marytsch

We are about to enter the Advent season. This is a unique time of waiting, a time of preparation, much as it would have been for Mary carrying a baby in her womb. This is a beautiful and joyful season, not only for Christians around the world who await the birth of Jesus, but also for many others, for whom this is a special time for family reunions and festive celebrations. Colorful lights, ornately decorated trees and carols help create a festive atmosphere. Yet, this year Advent and Christmas will be somehow different.

Since early 2020, the whole world has been affected, in one way or another, by a global pandemic. We have become accustomed to signs and posters in church buildings, mobile billboards and government briefings telling us to keep a social distance, not to mix with other households, to wear face coverings, etc. We have seen arrows painted on the floor showing people which direction to follow in order to prevent close contact with others, and thereby to stop the spread of the virus. Sometimes, even when you are out and about walking, you can see people stepping off the curb when they see a stranger approaching in the ”wrong” direction. Education and employment have suffered huge disruptions. Churches also had to close their doors and for several months Masses were not allowed to be celebrated with congregations. The virus has thrown a spanner into our daily routines!

This time of Advent is an invitation to wait in hope for the birth of Jesus Christ, when we hold on tighter to God’s promise of journeying with humankind always.

A long waitIn the United Kingdom, the economy has shrunk, and unemployment has hit record highs. Concerns about domestic violence and mental health issues are frequently raised by experts. Families have endured the pain of burying loved ones with very limited support due to restrictions. Likewise, wedding celebrations have had their numbers limited, and many have had to be cancelled or postponed.

So how can we remain hopeful? How can we get into the festive spirit of Christmas amid this gloomy backdrop? As Advent approaches I think of Mary, a young woman carrying a baby, yet having to confront many challenges at that time. Heavily pregnant she fled to Egypt in order to find safety from Herod’s hands. She experienced rejection and uncertainty. In a way, her experience reminds us of the struggles the world is facing today. We are sailing through uncharted waters, we are going through days filled with anxieties and being socially distanced from our loved ones. Days in which we no longer have full control of our lives.

This time of Advent is an invitation to wait in hope for the birth of Jesus Christ, when we hold on tighter to God’s promise of journeying with humankind always. The same promise that the young woman from Nazareth kept in her heart when she faced troubling times. Life may be different from the normal we knew before, but is yet, a life full of hope that we are yet to discover.

Columban lay missionary Nathalie Marytsch lives and works in Britain.