The white metal hospital bed looked out of place in the cozy lakeside home. The old man was skin and bones. His rattling breath sounded like it came from an empty cavern where someone once lived. Tears, cries, the smell of urine and medicine, clashed with the fully decorated Christmas tree upon which an angel sat serenely. This family had always loved Christmas time. Now they needed it.
She had come home to her family after years of being away. She still remembers flipping off her mother at the train station. Her boyfriend was her life. She went to live with him in Portland. They had a kid. He never really committed to her. She slept around to feel some sort of control. The small business where she worked went under when the Pandemic hit. Twenty years of her life disappeared. She barely remembered raising her little boy who was now fifteen and becoming too much like his dead-beat dad. She used to decorate her apartment for Christmas to match the Hallmark movies she so desperately wanted to join. She increasingly began to hate Christmas time. As she approached the door of her parents in a small town outside of Chicago with no job and no excuse, she needed Christmas this year.
The manger scenes outside of churches were always his favorite part of December. The cozy little manger holding a baby with his mom and dad looking down with awe. The yellow light resting on all the adoring creatures invited onlookers to come closer. Babies, presents, office parties, and gently falling snow seduced him every year. Like a mirage, he chased the images, the sounds, the feelings of joy, only to have them disappear as he approached. He loved the idea of Christmas. Every year he thought that this would be the one. Every year the distance between Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve grew shorter until the years blended together. The kids were grown. His wife was distant. His dreams and young man plans never fulfilled. He was tired of loving Christmas. Finally, he needed Christmas.
And you, tired of a pandemic that simultaneously reminds you of your imminent mortality as well as society’s fragile ability to hold it together. Everything is teetering on the brink. For some fifty years, Western Civilization thought it had progressed beyond dictatorships, banana republics, massacres of whole populations, and even pandemics. Whether it will happen or not, you have tasted the possibility that nothing is as certain as you thought it was; not your health, not your government, not your job, and definitely not your righteousness! Christmas used to come and go, and you thought you loved it. You may have even thought it was meaningful. But you assumed that you would have those family parties. You assumed so-and-so would always be there. You assumed you could do what you usually did, and if there was a problem somehow it would get fixed. You used to love Christmas because it was a cozy place like home. But now you need it.
You need this baby born in the midst of a pandemic, a teetering government, an angry mob, unstable economy, in a smelly corner of the house. You need this child to come. This sinless one. You need him to succeed. You need a new man to be born who won’t let you down. You need someone to be a hero with no skeletons in the closet. You need some way to make up for all the shit you have swept under the carpet; the porn, the jealousy, the cheating and the greed. You need a cure to this disease. You need a Savior to do it all for you. This year you need Christmas to happen. With shepherds, prostitutes, tax collectors, mourning widows and smelly bums you have no choice but to cry, “Hosanna, Hosanna, Save us.”
You used to love Christmas. But now you need it. Merry Christmas! Christ has come. He has died and risen for you. You are forgiven and you will rise again where we will finally enjoy Christmas feasts and parties without guilt or fear of the past or future.