I still can wake up at 2:30 a.m. in mid-July with "Joy to the…
After a spiritual winter, let’s claim Christmas
“Always winter, but never Christmas.” This phrase has been reverberating through my mind over the last few weeks — for more than one reason.
One of the biggest blessings throughout the pandemic has been the consistency of my women’s group. Since COVID hit in March, my group transitioned from in-person gatherings to Zoom meetings. And while we were able to resume meeting face to face during the warmer months when one woman offered her backyard as our meeting place, the chill of fall and winter has brought us back to the virtual reality we are all so accustomed to by now.
For many months, we focussed on Scripture study, reading through the books of Romans and Acts of the Apostles. With the restrictions on worship, especially in those early months of COVID, this spiritual consistency and community was our rock week after week.
But sometimes we need a break from even the best things, including the word of God. While reading about the persecution of the early Christians and the determination of saints such as Peter and Paul was inspiring, it became a bit heavy. As summer and fall left us behind, our group needed something lighter. We needed something that offered not just inspiration but hope. So, we turned to Narnia.
Leading up to the holidays, we cracked open old, newly bought and borrowed editions of C.S. Lewis’ classic children’s novel, “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.” Many of the women in our group had not read it since they were kids. And even those, like myself, who have opened the book in recent years were longing to revisit a world of wonder, a world so inspired by the truths of the Christian faith.
Many of you are probably familiar with this story, whether through reading the book (and the rest of “The Chronicles of Narnia”) or watching the movie adaptations, so I won’t bore you too much with recounting the tale that time after time appeals to readers young and old. You might even recall our Lenten reflection based on the series.
But December 2020 was an interesting time to dive back into the world of Narnia, which in the beginning of the book is ensnared in an eternal winter — “Always winter, but never Christmas.” Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? While we may not have been experiencing a physical winter since COVID hit, we’ve definitely experienced a taste of a spiritual winter. All these months, we’ve been yearning for spring to come again, for the spell of the pandemic to lift. We want to be able to worship as before, to gather as before, to thrive as before. Instead, we are still limited, disrupted and separated. Yes, we’ve been creative, and praise God for that! But if any year has felt like an eternal spiritual winter in our lifetime, it would be 2020.
Even for those of us determined to live with a Christian mindset, hope can be hard to come by. It can become exhausting. But we must not, we cannot lose our hold on hope.
Luckily for us, we do not live in a world where Christmas has been erased. No, we live in a world redeemed by the Incarnate babe whose coming we celebrate year after year, even in a pandemic.
So, I want to encourage you to remember that hope is not lost. Christmas — Christ himself — is still here.
If you are looking for some way to spend your Christmas holiday, consider picking up that old copy of “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” that you likely have collecting dust on some shelf. Or, if that does not describe you, find an audiobook to download or watch the movie. Not only is it a perfect story to read, listen to or watch during the colder months of the year, but we need to remind ourselves that Christ is always victorious, even if the end is not clearly in sight.
So celebrate Christ’s birth with all the decorations and food and music and gusto you can muster. This is not the year to back down in our Christian hope.
And, as Father Christmas rejoices in the book, let us say, “Merry Christmas! Long live the true King.” Merry Christmas, indeed! And may Christ’s birth bring renewed hope to all of our lives.
Ava Lalor is assistant editor for Our Sunday Visitor and editor for Radiant magazine.