You’ve seen the pleas from the CDC: “Spend Thanksgiving with just your immediate household this year.” My sister called me this week and asked what I was doing for Thanksgiving. “A frozen lasagna and TV,” I joked. (Don’t worry — I’m at least planning on using the oven.) “But all week I have plans to go hiking with my girlfriends,” I quickly added. “Okay, I won’t worry about you then.” Like many single people, spending Thanksgiving with just my household means I will be alone. But, I am a healthy active young woman who still has the ability get out of the house.
Whether you are single, have a small household, a large household, lots of roommates or lots of pets, COVID-19 has encouraged us all to stay home for the sake of physical health. But, mentally, we are all weary of the solo thing by now.
Like so many, the church I serve has a plan to keep us all together online, through Scripture and liturgy, and candle lighting on Sunday nights during Advent. We will still gather on Sundays one way or another, and we hope to continue to share life together safely throughout the week. But we know that one of the biggest joys of the Christmas season is being together — singing carols, sipping cocoa, looking at lights. I do pray that nuclear families still enjoy these traditions safely, but I must admit, they are less fun solo.
As I said in a sermon this week to my church family, “The good news is that we’ve been in this for quite a while.” Now, hold up, you may be thinking — that sounds a whole lot more like bad news than good. True, it is not joyful or uplifting to be taking part in an ongoing pandemic. But, the good news about having been a long-standing participant is that we are getting better at creative ways of connecting.
When my sister called to chat about Thanksgiving, she also had an invitation to go with it. On the nicer-weather day (hoping for one of those), I’m invited over to their place for outdoor soup.
Who do you know who is in a household of one this Advent season? Call them up and ask them what their plans are for Advent week one or two or three or four. And if they don’t come up with anything, be prepared with a safe option. Maybe you swing by and decorate the outside of their house for them while they do candles in the window on the inside. Maybe you plan to have hot cocoa outdoors or a phone date that week. Perhaps you just ask if they have time to share their favorite Christmas carols with you and listen to yours. Maybe you drop off a small gift on their doorstep or surprise them with some outdoor entertainment on a specified day or time. Those who live alone or are housebound may find themselves especially alone this Advent and Christmas. It is our job and joy as Christians to not let the light of Jesus Christ be missed.
Our traditional Advent and Christmas celebrations may not be possible this year, but to truly love Jesus means that we must find a way to proclaim his birth to one another and the world. Don’t let a virus or a gathering limit stop you from celebrating the coming of Christ and from doing so in community. Thanksgiving was just a practice run for creativity. Good Christian friends, rejoice! “For unto us … a child is born, … and he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). The year of Christ’s birth was like no other. This year of the pandemic, 2020, is like no other. Jesus was born into a world of terror, but his light would not be overtaken. Perhaps more than any other year, we cannot let anyone around us be in darkness. Reach out and shine the light of Christ through Thanksgiving, Advent, Christmas and always. We all need good Christian friends, especially those in households of one.
JULIE RAFFETY serves as the pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Franklin, New Jersey. Julie is a violinist, aspiring writer, snowboarder, runner, identical twin and crazy about popcorn.