A friend recently tweeted the link to a blog titled, “The Better Letter” by Bob Seawright. “If you have any Christmas spirit in you at all, you have a ‘grown-up Christmas list’ of some sort,” Seawright wrote. “A better world seems a bit more plausible at Christmas somehow, and it is something ‘devoutly to be wish’d.'”

This year, he said, “I’m scaling back my demands. It’s 2020, after all. I have a single (and devout) Christmas wish: … Please, for the sake of our medical workers, take good care. Wear masks. Avoid unnecessary travel and groups. Wash your hands. That’s a simple, smart, and kind Christmas wish everyone can and should grant. Please.”

Good wish, and I like the concept of a “grown-up Christmas list.” At my age especially, most of us really don’t care that much about what we “get” for Christmas. Our wish lists have become much less materialistic. Many are starting to shed our “stuff.” We are looking for more intangible “gifts.”

I’ve noticed, while reading the year-end, catch-up letters I receive during a season so conducive to reflection, despite its busyness, that after the year-in-review summary, most people end with a paragraph or two which amounts to their grown-up Christmas list. Some are very straightforward, like my dear friend Margaret Cherene in California, who was just diagnosed with cancer. She ended her letter with “My hopes/wishes/prayers for 2021: 

1. Vaccinations for all and the demise of COVID-19.

2. Schools reopen full time so parents can go back to work.

3. My cancer goes into complete remission!

4. The Donald Trump nightmare ends!!”

I heartily concur with all of that.

A retired nurse and longtime Oak Park resident who has successfully battled her own health setbacks over the past few years, writes: 

“Hopefully in the rear-view mirror of this year, we will all recognize the complete madness that we, by hell and high water, managed to get through. If I’m not mistaken, each of us will come up with all the good things these scary times made us fervently appreciate — the chitchat in the grocery store, the hugs and the handshakes, the spectacular meals eaten and served by folks other than yourself or a spouse, the laughing children playing T-ball, the up-close giggles of grandchildren as they are being squeezed close, the crowds in our beautiful parks, the freedom and ease of seeing the bottom half of faces, the absence of fear as our doctors, nurses, aides, technicians, teachers, shopkeepers, first responders, and other front-line workers tend to their jobs without the cloud of COVID-19 being uppermost in their minds.

“I do believe all these things will be happening next year when I send out my next Christmas missive. In any case, I pray they will be happening again at long last and that we will all be healthy witnesses to the return of a life we probably never quite appreciated enough. Joy to the World to you and those you love!”

Charlie Finn, a wisdom figure in my life, who often writes about the wisdom figures in his life in rural Virginia, where he and Penny raised their family, concluded, “What are our wishes in December 2020 for those close to our hearts? Stay safe. Be a beacon in a dark time, courageous in bringing your own particular gift to this moment. Trust we will again get our bearings, having learned what we needed to learn — nothing more important than, across the world, we truly are one family, in need of each other. Remember birth in a manger means hope, solstice means turning back to light. We wish you both hope and light.”

And here’s how I closed my letter:

Youth is what this holiday is about. New birth, rebirth, redemption. Hope — Emily Dickinson’s thing with feathers that perches in the soul and sings the tune without the words and never stops at all. 

Hope has two parts: 

1) looking far enough down the tunnel to see the light at the end, and 

2) walking to the end of the tunnel. 

Keep walking, friends. We’re getting there. May the intangible gifts, the gifts of the magi, be abundant for you this holiday season.

As for giving gifts of the magi, Howard Thurman figured that one out long ago: “When the song of the angels is stilled, when the star in the sky is gone, when the kings and princes are home, when the shepherds are back with their flock, the work of Christmas begins: To find the lost, to heal the broken, to feed the hungry, to release the prisoner, to rebuild the nations, to bring peace among all, to make music in the heart.”

Have the merriest, most grown-up Christmas you can under our current circumstances. 

It will be enough. 

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