Everyone has a favourite Christmas carol or two. Some are older religious ones like “Away in a Manger” or “Joy to the World”. Others are secular and more recent like “Silver Bells” or “White Christmas”. For me, every year, when I think of songs for the season, John Lennon’s “Happy Christmas (War is Over)” is what comes to my mind. I think it’s the question he asks that really speaks to me: “And so this is Christmas, and what have you done?”
I don’t take this as a threat or a guilt thing; it just makes me think about the year that has passed and wonder what I have done with it. The years are passing more and more quickly now, and there are not as many left to me as there were, so the question becomes ever more relevant. Each of us have to answer it for ourselves, but there is something about this issue of the Times that is so encouraging for me and, I hope, for you too.
Look at the drawing the children of our schools made for us. There is still joy and hope and a welcome innocence even in these jaded days. Look at all the reports of people helping people, all of the support being given to the food banks, the service clubs, those working to make sure that as many people (and their pets) as possible have a happy Christmas. In the world in which we live, good news is sometimes hard to find. Cynicism and pessimism often seem the predominant attitudes, and there are too many times when such negativity seems justified. These last couple of years have brought an entirely new phenomenon to all of us: the pandemic, with all its new words, restrictions, fears, and demands. The world was just opening up again when the latest version of the virus arrived, promising even more disruption and closures. But the vaccine campaign is having a definite impact, and it’s important to note what reliable sources tell us. “Almost all the people dying are now dying preventable deaths,” said Dr Chris Beyrer, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “And that’s because they’re not immunized.” This is true all over the world, no matter what the naysayers claim. Facts are facts. Rumours are dangerous and irresponsible.
Whether you are a Christian or not, Christmas is one time of the year when the negativity can be put aside for a few days or weeks. If you can ignore the commercialism and greed, not always easy to do, there is so much positivity around. People smile more, take pleasure in finding the right gifts for loved ones, and look forward to relax away from the day-to-day stresses of life. And that can’t be a bad thing, can it?
People like to talk and write about “the true spirit of Christmas”, but I find that not many seem to know what that is. For Christians, it is easier to define, I suppose. It means that God showed his love for us by being born into human nature and sharing our humanity in order to tell us about himself. More than that, he provided a way for each of us to know him and to discover why we are here, and what the meaning of life really is. That is quite a gift. It always amuses me to think that the birthday of Jesus is celebrated every year by other people receiving gifts. But that is God for you: wise men still seek him. Regardless of where you put your faith, Jesus is still the reason for the season.
This is our last issue of the Times before the end of the year. No paper until January 12. To continue the John Lennon quote: “Another year over, and a new one just begun”. What will 2022 bring? Who could possibly guess given what we’ve already been through? There will be a provincial election in June and a municipal one in October. Maybe by then we’ll be allowed to meet the candidates face to face again, and judge them on more than campaign brochures.
“And what have we done?” A good question. We have been through tumultuous times: fake news, Delta, Omicron, fires, floods, climate change awareness, businesses opening and closing, buildings built and demolished, and all the normal life of a small community going about its daily life. We have fought over issues, grieved over losses, rejoiced over successes, and celebrated festivals and accomplishments. It has ever been thus, and will, no doubt, continue to be so in the year ahead.
I hope and pray that we can continue to do so as a community, caring and compassionate usually, but angry and divided on other things. Because that is what life is, the little, day-by-day triumphs and failures. We sometimes take ourselves too seriously, and take others not seriously enough. Or vice versa, even! But, as year after year, Christmas after Christmas goes by, maybe we can get some perspective on all of that. How many people knew anything about the Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918-19 before COVID hit us? To the people of that time, coming straight out of a catastrophic world war that killed millions of people, it must have seemed as if the world was ending, changing forever. They didn’t know what was yet to come.
One day, we will have forgotten much of what we now find so important. One day, we too, may be forgotten. So let’s not get too worked up over things and let’s try and relax, at least for a few days over Christmas. You may not believe it, but God loves you, and time passes.
So, on behalf of all of us at the Times, may I wish you all the best and leave you for 2021 with John and Yoko’s words: “And so this is Christmas, I hope you have fun. The near and the dear ones, the old and the young. A very Merry Christmas and a happy new year. Let’s hope it’s a good one, without any fear”.