We learn from the Grinch that Christmas comes without ribbons, it comes without tags, it comes without packages, boxes or bags. We learn from poverty, a house fire, or an unpaid electric bill, that Christmas comes without trees, twinkle lights, and inflatable lawn ornaments.
We learn from Lyme, or Crohn's, or allergies that Christmas comes without cookies, egg nog, candy canes, and beigli.
We learn from deployment, relocation, and loss that Christmas comes even without family.
And this year, perhaps from quarantine, we will wonder: does Christmas come without concerts, Christkindlmarkt, chosen family, movies, and Santa Claus? Is Christmas day still within our grasp, even when there are no hands to clasp?
"Keep Christ in Christmas!" we say. "Jesus is the reason for the season!" And what happens when churches are closed against pandemics? When the celebration of Jesus's birth threatens to be overshadowed by doomsday prophecies of his second coming? What happens when the world falls apart? When we are alone at Christmas?
This year, I learned that keeping the Christ in Christmas is not nearly so important... as keeping the I in Christ.
The story of Christmas doesn't matter one bit if it happened 2000 years ago to other people, in another place, and I simply read about it. What makes Christmas is that it happens to me, here and now.
Where I am, there is Christmas.