In this ‘Year Like No Other’ I’ve been reflecting on Christmas. Partly because we had our final teen Study at Church this morning (we only have them monthly due to the need to comply with COVID regulations), and partly because my husband and I will have our first Christmas since the kids arrived, without either of them.
I love Christmas. I like carols, sparkly things, lights, and trees, and I enjoy giving presents, (and receiving them!), and making Christmas food. I’ve already cooked three Christmas cakes – two to post, and one to eat for us. I’ve even made some Christmas decorations, and have begun making a Christmas display with some lights. It probably won’t be as big or elaborate as Plan A, or even Plan B, because I’ve had to learn a few new skills along the way, but what we put up should look nice.
But one child will be in Queensland, and the other in WA. My parents are also in WA, as is most of my extended family. My husband’s family are either in WA, or New Zealand. And in this year of COVID-19, there are borders, travel restrictions, and a whole pile of other factors beyond our control.
But on the other hand, we live in Australia. For most of us, COVID-19 is still a bit abstract. In our whole country, we’ve had only 27,724 cases, and 907 deaths. We are incredibly fortunate. We’ve been blessed with a government who listened (on the whole) to the health professionals, and then acted. We are blessed with a population in which the vast majority are willing to think of others first, and buckle down when required to prevent disaster.
I once thought the Australian concept of ‘mateship’ was a bit hackneyed. This year, during the fires and now the pandemic, we’ve seen it shine through. Of course, like everywhere, we have our dissenters, but they are definitely a minority.
But as I reflected on Christmas, I began to think about the families of those 907 people. And the families of those who may be suffering ‘Long COVID.’
Each of those 907 people died before they otherwise would have, no matter how old they were when they passed away due to the pandemic. I’ve heard people say ‘Oh, they were old, it wouldn’t have made much difference.’ And then I think about the families of those people – I’m sure it made a difference to them. I’m sure it made a difference to their friends, and to the health professionals who cared for them in their final days and hours.
We do our selves a disservice when we under-value our older people, or when we assume that only ‘old people’ die or suffer long term effects from a novel virus. The fact is, we actually don’t know. It’s a novel virus. We know more than we did a year ago, but we don’t know what things will be like in two, five, or ten years. I’m reminded about post-polio syndrome, in fact.
And when I extrapolate the numbers across our world, I am left saddened by the vast number of families whose Christmas will be incredibly different to the ones that have gone before. As I write, over 1.3 million people have died from COVID-19, and 37 million have recovered. (Hopefully.) 54 million have had or currently have, the disease.
Those numbers are huge. And there are millions of families affected.
And as Christmas comes closer, I am struck again, by the hope it engenders. Even those who don’t believe in the traditional nativity, celebrate the family closeness, and reflection that such a celebration can evince.
I’m sure 2021 will bring its own challenges. But as Christmas approaches, I am reminded of the hope that the concept of God Incarnate can bring when we take it to heart.