COVID Christmas Survival Guide

During this most unusual Christmas season, be intentional about what you do.

Aaron Lambert

By the time you read this, who knows what the COVID situation will be like in Colorado. Perhaps cases will have dramatically dropped and your Christmas will feel a little more like normal. Or we could be under another quarantine. Some Christmas, huh?

Regardless of whichever scenario we find ourselves in, there is one thing that remains constant: God wants your Christmas to be full of joy and renewal. Instead of fretting about the Christmas that could have been, why not make Christmas extra memorable this year by trying something new? Now is a time to be intentional about what we do and enjoy the company of our loved ones. 

While the usual Christmas activities may not be happening as normal, there can be a wealth of options if you get a little creative (and yes, in some cases, utilize the wonders of the internet). Here are a few ideas to make this COVID Christmas season one for the books.

At home

Cozy up with some books
Reading is something we should all be doing more of, especially in a time when attention spans are at an all-time low. Make yourself a nice cup of tea (or a hot toddy if you’re feeling adventurous), light the fireplace, cover up with a cozy blanket and grab those books you’ve been wanting to read but “haven’t had time for.” You won’t regret it.

Family game night
With Christmas parties cancelled, you’re going to be stuck with…well, the same people you’ve been stuck with since March. A little bit of friendly competition might liven things up a bit. Break out a deck of cards and play some Rummy. Partake in a marathon session of Monopoly. Get a heated game of Candyland going. Best of all, it’s an excuse to be present with those you love most.

Classic Christmas radio shows…on YouTube
Remember the good ol’ days when families would huddle around the radio and listen to their favorite Christmas story together? Well, thanks to the internet, a similar experience (albeit not quite the same) can be had in 2020. Search “Christmas radio shows” on YouTube, find your favorite Christmas story, then close your eyes and pretend like it’s the 1930s all over again. 

A home meditation on the Christmas story
When was the last time you read the Christmas story closely? With the normal hustle of the Christmas season virtually gone this year, maybe now’s the time to open your Bibles to the book of Matthew and/or Luke and meditate upon the Christmas story. This can be done individually or as a family. 

Outdoors

Go Christmas light-seeing
Putting up Christmas lights early this year was a simple way to spread joy, and we’re willing to bet people will leave them up longer than usual, too. If you find yourself with nothing to do one evening, make a fresh batch of hot cocoa, load the family in the car, and go find the house most worthy of the coveted Clark Griswold award. 

Socially-distanced family caroling  
Spread some Christmas joy in your neighborhood by going caroling with your family, COVID-style. Don your masks, make a sign that says, “Open your window and we’ll sing you a song,” and start knocking. It’s bound to put some much-needed smiles on your neighbors’ faces.

Build a snow Nativity scene
Have you ever seen a Nativity scene built out of snow? It seems like a no-brainer, but we don’t recall ever seeing one. This could be a great way to tell the Christmas story to kids in a way that they’ll never forget.

Visit a church
Even though Masses aren’t happening at full capacity, many churches are still open to pray in. Making a mini-pilgrimage to a church you’ve never been to is a great way to pass the time and offer special intentions to the Lord this Christmas season.

For others

Feed the hungry
Lots of people will be struggling to feed their families this holiday. Give to a food bank, prepare some meals for your parish, or freeze some meals to give away. A little goes a long way.

Give drink to the thirsty
Clean water is essential to human life. Locally, you can donate packages of bottled water to homeless shelters and food banks. Globally, you can donate to organizations that build wells for those in need.

Shelter the homeless
A chief calling of Christians is to help the poor. This doesn’t mean giving money to panhandlers, though that is an option. Rather, donating to homeless shelters, whether it be finances or material necessities such as blankets, socks or underwear is a crucial way to help those who are homeless.

Help the sick
Visiting those who are sick is not really an option right now, but there are ways you can still help. Donating blood and bringing meals to those who have COVID or are more at risk are two ideas.

COMING UP: Five tips for reading the Word of God

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Sunday, Jan. 24 marks “The Sunday of the Word of God,” instituted by Pope Francis last year and to be held every year on the third Sunday of Ordinary Time. This may strike us as odd, as we might think to ourselves, “but isn’t the Bible read at every Sunday Mass?” Certainly so. Not only that, but every daily celebration of the Mass proclaims the Word of God.

What’s different about “The Sunday of the Word of God,” however, is that it’s not just about hearing the Bible read on Sundays. As the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith notes, it “reminds us, pastors and faithful alike, of the importance and value of Sacred Scripture for the Christian life, as well as the relationship between the word of God and the liturgy: ‘As Christians, we are one people, making our pilgrim way through history, sustained by the Lord, present in our midst, who speaks to us and nourishes us. A day devoted to the Bible should not be seen as a yearly event but rather a year-long event, for we urgently need to grow in our knowledge and love of the Scriptures and of the Risen Lord, who continues to speak his word and to break bread in the community of believers. For this reason, we need to develop a closer relationship with Sacred Scripture; otherwise, our hearts will remain cold and our eyes shut, inflicted as we are by so many forms of blindness.’” This gives us a wonderful opportunity to pause and reflect on the Sacred Scriptures. 

There are two means by which God Divinely reveals truths to us: Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition. As such, the Bible is not merely a human document, nor simply a collection of amazing stories that call us to do heroic things, or a collection of wise sayings. Rather, the Scriptures are “inspired.” St. Paul has a beautiful teaching about this in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 – “All scripture, inspired of God, is profitable to teach, to reprove, to correct, to instruct in justice, That the man of God may be perfect, furnished to every good work.” By “inspired” we mean that God is the principle author of the Bible.

Certainly there were different men who physically wrote the words on the papyrus. Yet these men were influenced by the grace of inspiration to write, not just their own words, but God’s. And so the Scriptures are a mysterious congruence of Divine and human authorship – the human writers capably made full use of language, literary forms, creativity, and writing style to communicate their message, yet they did so under the grace of Divine inspiration. This means that while they wrote in such a way that they had full freedom to write as they wanted, what they wrote was also, “to a tee,” exactly as God wanted written. God is the principle author of the Bible, the human author its secondary writer. Such inspiration is how, despite the various human authors, events, and historical and cultural contexts behind the 73 Biblical texts, we’re still left with only one story since they all have the same one primary author. 

Given that the Bible is the written word of God, I’d like to offer a few “tips” for reading the Bible, since it certainly cannot be read like any other text. 

1. Pray! We must pray before opening the Scriptures for enlightenment from God. We must pray after reading in thanksgiving to God. And we must pray throughout reading in order to encounter God in Scripture and apply it to our life. Of course, the tried and trusted practice of praying the Scriptures is Lectio DivinaThe Ladder of Monks by Guigo II is the ancient resource for Lectio Divina, while a helpful book to get you started is Dr. Tim Gray’s Praying Scripture for a Change: An Introduction to Lectio Divina

2. Remember that you are in no rush. The important point is encountering Christ in the Scriptures, not racing through them. Speed reading isn’t reading, after all, much less when applied to the Word of God. It’s not about getting through the Bible, but encountering Christ therein. That may be a few chapters at a time or may actually be only one verse that you pray with. Whatever the case, slow and steady wins the race, as Aesop reminds us. 

3. We have to read the Scriptures regularly, daily if possible. We read in Psalm 1, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.” Meditating day and night. A good way to start would be to read one Psalm a night as a part of your nightly prayer. Ever better would be praying that one Psalm with your spouse, if married. 

4. Do not worry about starting on page one and reading from cover to cover. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and lost in the text. We all know about Adam and Eve, Noah and the Flood, Moses and the Plagues. But how many understand animal sacrifices in the Book of Leviticus or its purity laws? It’s very easy, starting from page one and flipping straight through, to lose sight of the story of salvation history. Start from page one if you’d like, but don’t feel like you can’t start with whatever book (especially the Gospels) that you find yourself drawn to. 

5. Come take classes with the Denver Catholic Biblical School! In chapter eight of the Book of Acts, we read of an Ethiopian Eunuch reading from the Prophet Isaiah. When the Deacon Philip asks him if he understands what he’s reading, the Eunuch responds, “How can I, unless some one guides me?” This is what we at the Biblical School are here for – to guide you in your encounter with Christ in the Sacred Scriptures. We’re in the middle of our Scripture classes already for this year, but we always start new classes in the fall every September. And in the meantime, we have plenty of things still coming for this year – a class on Catholic Social Teaching that begins on Jan. 27 a lecture series for Lent that starts on March 1, a conference on the Sacred Heart being offered on May 15 and Aug. 28, and a six-week class on St. Joseph in the summer starting in July. We have something for everybody – just reach out to us!