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.
In this strange and challenging year of Covid, the world has learned just how vulnerable we are, and how quickly and easily things can fall apart. 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.
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, even in socially-distanced and keeping-to-your-bubble ways. 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.
This is our last issue of the Times before the end of the year. No paper next week, I’m afraid, we’re taking a week or two off. The next copy will be on January 13, marking the start of another unpredictable year. To continue the John Lennon quote: “Another year over, and a new one just begun”. What will 2021 bring? Who could possibly guess, given what we’ve already been through?
I suppose we can’t escape politics, even in this Christmas season, as the articles and letters relating to the Kemptville prison story in this issue can attest. The provincial government has really messed up with the way the whole thing has been handled, and I don’t think we’ll be hearing the end of the story for many months to come. But, for now, let’s take some time to breathe, to relax and enjoy a well-earned holiday. There is not one of us who hasn’t deserved it, given the year we’ve had.
“And what have we done?” A good question. We have been through tumultuous times. Fake news. Mad times in the Excited States. New stores in Colonnade. Businesses opening and closing, and hopefully, reopening. Buildings built and demolished. 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. 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 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 2020 with John and Yoko’s words: “And so this is Christmas, I hope you have fun. The near and the dear one, 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”. [lyrics © Peermusic Publishing]