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A COVID Christmas Reflection

As Advent approached, my Christmas Cactus began to bud, and I started to assemble a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle of Christmas Ornaments thinking it would be a nice addition to my decorations. It turned out to be the hardest puzzle I h ever worked on. I began to think about skipping Christmas.

I thought about putting up the tree. I thought about lugging all those boxes from the downstairs locker. There would be no family night to decorate it. I thought about lugging up my crèche collection. Setting them out in just the right places is a project I share with my, this year quarantine absent, granddaughter. As each day passed decorating seemed less and less important. Each day I would notice a blessing I might have missed if I had been caught up in “doing Christmas”. A few more pieces went in the puzzle.

A phone call from a dear friend sharing that serious health problems were getting better and we had precious time to catch up and chat. Christmas Lasagna “my mom’s recipe” delivered by another loving friend. The cactus budded out some more.

A Christmas letter arrived. “There was nothing much to tell this year”, so he decided to share a memory. He recalled how he and his departed wife had been instrumental in developing an interfaith program of Thanksgiving and biweekly dinners provided to ski workers at Winter Park just before pay day. In 25 years since served thousands of meals have been served to lonely kids far from home. The puzzle is beginning to fill in but a long way to go yet.

My grown kids agreed that I should donate their Family Christmas Checks to pay for food baskets. They chose to feed four hungry Navajo families to the Maryland State Food Bank. The cactus is beginning to blossom.

One of my sons and his family sadly giving up their family celebration together so that my grandson and daughter-in-law could go to Florida and care for her mother and stepdad after his serious surgery. Saying it would be a strange year but that it was a joy to be able to help Ben who is always ready to help others. On Christmas Eve morning I placed the last 12-14 pieces in the jigsaw puzzle


My other daughter-in-law, who is fighting lung cancer, has not been in another building other than her home or the hospital since COVID-19 began, shared her joy of going to their parking lot church service Christmas Eve. It was pouring rain but “the preacher kept preaching and the singer kept singing Go tell it on the Mountain and the rain kept pouring”


That is when I knew that despite all the loneliness and grief and fear and despair going on around us this year, Christmas was happening. The Christmas Cactus was doing what it has been doing yearly for the shortest day and the longest night. You could not hold them back.

In the morning, the radio announced the second most favorite Christmas Carol this year. Silent Night sung by a lovely soprano voice from Austria, first in English and then in German. My eyes filled with tears. I could hear the soft voice of my German grandmother singing: “Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht, all are asleep, only one is awake, only the holy pair with the heavenly child.” Sun was bathing the Christmas Cactus blooming in the window. Christmas had arrived.


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