As Christmas rolled around again this year, I began to wonder why God sent Jesus to earth as a little baby in Bethlehem. We have told and retold the story, and I have practically memorized Luke 2. There’s Mary riding on the donkey, Joseph frantically looking for an inn, the shepherds seeing angels in the field, and wise men from the East following a star.
For many millions of us, this year has been unlike any we’ve ever had. Not since World War II has so much of the world’s population been so affected by the same crisis. Those who haven’t felt the virus’ full impact and the worldwide economic downturn themselves are surrounded by people who have. Manufacturers, wholesalers, and retailers whose annual bottom lines depend on Christmas sales are wondering if the holiday season will make up for previous losses. People who have lost their businesses worry about their own families and those of their former employees. Out-of-work parents wonder what kind of Christmas they will be able to give their children.
On the night of Jesus’ birth, angels appeared to shepherds keeping watch over their flocks. “Glory to God in the highest,” they proclaimed, “and on earth peace, good will toward men!” These days, many of us may think of peace and good will as rather abstract virtues. Nevertheless, they are the secret ingredient that give Christmas traditions their meaning.
Last Christmas I was a few months into a new job. My new office was an hour from my home, my hours were from 2:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m., and I worked on Saturdays. I was always exhausted and out of sync with everyone in my life. And I had to work on Christmas Day!
Dressing my three preschool sons alike seemed sensible at the time. It made clothes shopping easier, for one, and because they were brothers with similar builds and complexions, they looked good in the same clothes. At home it gave a sense of order, however superficial, to a household with three little boys in perpetual motion, and in public it showcased what I was sure was the most adorable set of kids ever.
When I was 19, my then-boyfriend told me that his mother, on a recent business trip, had been in a restaurant where people paid $50 for lunch—which would be three times that in today’s dollars. He said that he dreamed to one day be in a position to buy that kind of lunch. “That’s freedom!” he said.
Who would have thought that I’d be writing an article on the topic of happiness and satisfaction after everything that we have been through this year due to the COVID-19 virus? After having experienced so much insecurity and uncertainty in the air, how could that be a time to think about happiness?
My father had profound mental health issues which caused him, my mother, and us seven siblings much grief. I had a very unhappy childhood.
When I was two years old, I was seriously scalded by a pot of boiling water. To this day I still bear the scars over several parts of my body.