“But the days passed, and expectations gave way to resignation—the hopeless resignation of the old, sometimes miscalled apathy.”
― W.W. Jacobs
Granny Hat has heard 2020 frequently described as these “unprecedented and uncertain times”. While she concedes that they may be uncertain, she isn’t sure they are unprecedented. The villains and heroes change in each tale but history repeats itself over and over again. As we approach the “most wonderful time of the year” Granny would like to point out that once again,
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way–in short, the period was so far like the present period that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.” Tales of Two Cities, Charles Dickens
The first Christmas was one of “these times”. A despotic empire was raping and pillaging its way across the known world, conquering smaller kingdoms and exacting exorbitant taxes from them. The Caesar forced his subjects in Palestine to travel to their place of birth for a census; the poor had to camp out in the open on this pilgrimage. The baby Jesus was born in poverty to one of these transient families in Bethlehem. Then a small-town dictator with a Napoleon complex tried to have him killed and his family had to flee across the desert to Egypt. Talk about “unprecedented and uncertain times”!
Not to change the subject, Granny Hat loves her Christmas music. It is such a magical mix of silly celebration and grave reckoning. This year, Granny has listened more carefully to the familiar lyrics. Mixed up in the joy and wonder, is the stark reality of that first Christmas. The lyrics sound all too familiar to Granny. Here are some of her favorites:
Our world is indeed weary, caught in the net and endlessly chanting “just keep swimming, just keep swimming”. In this 2020 holiday season we don’t know whether to call out Merry Christmas! Or throw in the towel and grumble Bah Humbug… Granny thinks a revolution may be on the National New Year’s Resolution list but she would rather see some revolution than the resignation that is so prevalent right now..
See, Granny Hat wishes she had a nickel for every time she has heard someone say the two deafening words “AT LEAST”.
“My kids are so tired from staring at a screen all day and they are depressed and miss their friends but AT LEAST they can still “go” to school”.
“My friend lost her business but AT LEAST she will be getting a stimulus check”.
“We are so sad that we will be all alone at Christmas time but AT LEAST we can still eat our favorite food and watch the Hallmark channel”.
Even the latest holiday advertisements and commercials seem obsessed with AT LEAST some virtual happiness. A few of Granny’s favorites:
KOHLS: while a nostalgic Rainbow Connection plays in the background, kids with their faces pressed to the frosty windowpanes hold up sweet messages to the elderly couple across the street. Kohls promises to bring everyone “together” with beautiful holiday gifts. AT LEAST we can still shop and we can wave at the neighbors.
X-FINITY: Santa and Mrs. Claus are planning and plotting to “give togetherness” this Christmas but they say “it’s been a nightmare”, as the elves inject “smell of Grandma’s cooking” into a wrapped gift. Tucked into their cozy bed with their nightcaps Santa worriedly admits “I’m not sure it’s gonna work”. Mrs. Santa confidently replies “Oh, it’s going to work!” as the virtual sleigh drives off into the star studded night. AT LEAST our presents will still come, thanks to Amazon.com and thanks to Xfinity, we can blow grateful kisses to Grandma over the phone and imagine the smell of her cooking.
MCCORMICK: lovely jazz version of Winter Wonderland plays softly while we view warm, holiday kitchens and the narrator softly says, “Gigi’s mashed potatoes, Aunt Steff’s famous apple pie, dad’s turkey; even if your loved ones won’t be with you this season, their dishes can still make it to your table”. The holiday will be merry and bright with McCormick by your side. AT LEAST there will be yummy food.
CALIFORNIA LOTTERY: To these tuneful lyrics, “It’s all about the little things, the joys of simple little things” festive, masked, holiday folks happily slide California Lottery scratchers under people’s doors or behind their windshield wipers to spread cheer, not viruses. Hope they wear gloves while handing the scratchers. Even a cute delivery dog gets involved with a festively wrapped box of scratchers tied around his neck. AT LEAST there are some Covid Response strategies to help us stay in touch.
The advertisements are sweet and nostalgic, designed to make us smile. They were made with the best of intentions, of course. In spite of efforts to make life as normal as possible however, many people are extremely unhappy, fearful, distressed and alone. Granny Hat has no idea who Francoise Sagan is, but he said:
“For unhappiness has nothing to teach and resignation is ugly.”
Resignation just doesn’t get the job done. For example, it couldn’t have defeated King George. Resignation isn’t brave; it is the lowest common denominator. Last Granny Hat checked she still lives in the land of the free and the home of the brave but true courage seems to belong to a mere handful of folks that refuse to resign. Granny has it on good authority that freedom isn’t free; it might involve a battle or two. Maybe we should fight resignation with RESOLVE! Just a thought!
Some 300 years after Christ was born, the Roman Empire declared that all its citizens would celebrate and worship the Sun at the annual festival in December. Christians had a dilemma; their monotheistic views didn’t allow for celebrating Roman gods. So they resolved to covertly celebrate the SON instead, giving birth to the tradition of Christmas in early winter, even though Jesus Christ was most probably born in the spring. It was risky but they took a chance to find a way to celebrate their only hope. Granny Hat is so glad they did. Resolution can bring about a quiet, peaceful, (perhaps even a bit sneaky) revolution. Today, we face a different set of hurdles, uncertain but not unprecedented. While we still have freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom to worship our God we must exercise those freedoms or we will have no choice but resignation.
That child in the manger, born to be our Savior in poverty and slavery, did not give us the spirit of fear but of strength and a sound mind. The wise men from the east that came to worship Him defied the decree of the King, and went home another way. Many of our brothers and sisters who came before us lived in hard times, circumstances that required bravery, sacrifice and determination.
As Abraham Lincoln said,
“The fiery trial through which we pass will light us, in honor or in dishonor, down to the latest generation.”
As the Apostle Paul wrote:
“ Now as to the times and the epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you. For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. While they are saying, “Peace and safety!” then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief; for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night, nor of darkness; so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober. For those who sleep do their sleeping at night, and those who get drunk get drunk at night. But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Him. Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing”. I Thessalonians 5: 1-11
Jesus Christ bought our freedom, redeemed us from the pit and set our feet on solid ground! Not to cower, not to placate or pander, but to be a light on a hill, a city that never sleeps, a beacon of hope for the world to wonder at.
No more AT LEAST, this Christmas we can celebrate and look forward to THE MOST that God offers. It is all we will ever need and beyond our wildest dreams.
Granny is encouraged by these words of hope that follow the more somber lyrics from above: