Someone rightly said that the most worthless item he purchased this year was a 2020 planning calendar. Who woulda’ thought at the outset of what appeared to be a year full of promise and opportunity would slowly disintegrate into a dazed and confused heap?
Most of us are receiving word almost daily of seasonal events being canceled that for years helped make the yuletide bright — sad but necessary in seeking to flatten the coronavirus curve. So, we look for alternate ways to celebrate.
Consider these modest suggestions, centered around the Advent wreath ceremony, with an activity for each day starting with the first Sunday of Advent, as we enter into this period of anxious waiting. I hope they meet all CDC guidelines.
Nov. 29: Make your own Advent wreath, as simple or elaborate as you want it to be. Read Isaiah 9:2-7 and light the first Advent candle (Hope). Give a loved one a small, practical Advent gift.
Nov. 30: Give thanks for making it through another month, with the brightest and best, December, on the horizon.
Dec. 1: Buy and start an amaryllis bulb and anticipate a stunning display from this remarkable flowering plant (if you’re lucky, it’ll send up two flower stalks) on those cold, gloomy days in January. Other seasonal plants include cyclamen, Norfolk Island pine, Christmas cactus and a wide variety of poinsettias.
Dec. 2: Volunteer to be a Salvation Army bell ringer. Grappling with the pandemic, this amazing organization is only making its appeals Thursday, Friday and Saturday until Christmas and is struggling to respond to increased needs at every turn. You can register and donate on line at salvationarmy.org.
Dec. 3: Do some Christmas shopping with a focus on supporting local businesses.
Dec. 4: Call your favorite local radio station and request Stan Freberg’s classic, “Green Christmas,” even more relevant today than when first released in 1958. They likely don’t have it, but even if they do, wanna bet they won’t play it?
Dec. 5: Buy a holiday fruitcake and use it as a doorstop or paperweight.
Dec. 6: Read Luke 2:8-14 and light the second Advent candle (Preparation). Give an Advent gift to someone else who might least expect it.
Dec. 7: Read Psalm 91 today for such a time as this.
Dec. 8: Write a personal yule greeting — yes, a handwritten message of encouragement, not email or tweet — to a shut-in, someone struck with a serious illness or who will be working Christmas Day. Or, send a card with personal “thank you” message to a first responder group, health care providers, waste managers or postal carriers.
Dec. 9: Donate some nonperishable food items to Patchwork Pantry at Community Mennonite Church today, or to another local food pantry of choice. According to Patchwork director Jennifer Ulrich, the most-needed items are canned fruit, soup and vegetables, pasta, mac and cheese, toilet paper and soap. Items can be left by the side (north) ramp entrance to the church.
Dec. 10: Be the reason someone else smiles today.
Dec. 11: Send Christmas greetings with a personal note to nursing home residents who are not allowed visitors.
Dec. 12: Create a homemade “gift certificate” to give to someone else, offering to perform some service that they can’t do themselves because of COVID-19 or other issue.
Dec. 13: Read I John 4:7-12 and light the third Advent candle (Joy). Ask anyone participating with you what gives them their greatest joy.
Dec. 14: Go all day without looking at Facebook. If you can’t, then send a “glad tiding of great joy greeting” to your friends.
Dec. 15: Mail or make a contribution online to another local charity that is being hard-hit by the coronavirus.
Dec. 16: Watch a seasonal video such as “The Muppets Christmas Carol,” “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” (“Save me the neck, Clark!”), Jean Shepherd’s “A Christmas Story,” “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” “Elf,” “It’s a Wonderful Life” (can never watch this one too often), “Home Alone,” and one of my personal favorites, not shown on TV in years, “A Claymation Christmas.”
Dec. 17: Listen to the Christmas section of Handel’s “Messiah.”
Dec. 18: If physically able, make an appointment to donate blood today, the year-round gift of life.
Dec. 19: Read the delightful Pennsylvania Dutch version of “The Night Before Christmas,” a fractured parody of the Clement C. Moore classic, by Chet Williamson (Pelican Publishing, 2000).
Dec. 20: Read John 3:16-19 and light the fourth Advent candle (Love). Tell someone beyond immediate family “I love you” and why.
Dec. 21: On the first day of winter, pile into Santa’s SUV and drive around looking at Christmas decorations (when was the last time you did that?).
Dec. 23: Start sending Christmas cards to persons whom you received greetings from but weren’t on your list.
Dec. 24: Attend a Christmas Eve candlelight service, even though it will probably be online.
Dec. 25: It’s Christmas, 2020. Read John 1:14 and Psalm 96 (Adoration) and light all five Advent candles, give thanks to God for his “indescribable gift” (II Cor. 9:15) and sing “Joy to the World” like no one’s listening.
Somewhere, out there, Someone is.