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Coronavirus: Christmas and the festive period

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This year’s Christmas celebrations are faced with reality of COVID-19, which has brought about untold suffering to humanity.

BY Fr Reki Tendai Mashayamombe

Christmas celebrations within the church usually attract “big gatherings” as the faithful congregate to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.

It is a beautiful celebration of our Saviour’s birth and a time that draws many visitors. It is only natural that our communities may want to create powerful experiences during this holy season.

In the face of COVID-19, this year’s Christmas celebrations have to be simplified, but perhaps celebrating with simplicity doesn’t have to mean cutting out everything our communities love and hold dear about Christmas.

There are many alternatives that can help churches pare back while still keeping treasured traditions.

It is unquestionable that congregants this year might feel disappointed that the yearly tradition they enjoy is observed under very strict lock down regulations.

There is need to find comfort in the Lord in these trying times.

The apostle Paul in Romans Chapter 5, verses 3 to 5, comes to mind as we seek help to process the pain.

Paul writes: “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts …”

Paul reminds us that God will use even our disappointment to build endurance, character and hope in us.

No one is sure what the next few months will be like. Will the virus spike or fade?

Will people get sick or will they just get sick of COVID-19 infection? The future remains uncertain.

Be that as it may, the spirit of love and giving should continue in these trying times particularly in the spirit of Christmas.

Gentle reader, are you aware of St Nicholas, known as Nicholas of Bari or Nicholas of Myra, who became popular in the 4th century, in Myra, Lycia, Asia Minor near modern-day Demre, Turkey.

St Nicholas of Bari, whose feast day is December 6, is one of the most popular minor saints celebrated in the eastern and western churches and is now traditionally associated with the festival of Christmas.

He is popularly known for encouraging people to give one another gifts which has become a custom in many countries where children receive gifts on St Nicholas Day.

Nicholas’s reputation for generosity and kindness gave rise to legends of miracles he performed for the poor and unhappy.

He was reputed to have given marriage dowries of gold to three girls whom poverty would otherwise have forced into lives of prostitution and to have restored to life three children who had been chopped up by a butcher and put in a tub of brine.

In the middle ages, devotion to Nicholas has extended to all parts of Europe.

Learning from St Nicholas, the church in Zimbabwe should not wonder how to navigate the Christmas season during this pandemic but rather seek ways to lead the faithful in a way that brings connection and growth.

But in a year where everything is different, how should we handle our church’s holiday events?

We love the traditions that come with Thanksgiving and Christmas.

That’s why we do them every year. They draw us closer to each other and foocus our eyes on Jesus.

But this year, we have to figure out how to enjoy the holidays with the coronavirus among us.

The pandemic is another opportunity for us to step up and lead.

More importantly, there is need to spread the gospel of hope, remembering most importantly the rural folk this festive season.

Despite coronavirus seemingly not coming to an end anytime soon, the Lord Jesus Christ will not abandon his people.

Let us celebrate with extra caution, care and love. For in the eyes of God, nothing is impossible, for he makes all things beautiful according to his
time!

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