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16 December 2021
Making up for lost time as borders come down
Words Paul Hateley
The world was gripped by war in 1943 when Bing Crosby released the song, I’ll be Home for Christmas. The lyrics resonated with soldiers serving away from their families who longed to be home, “if only in my dreams”.
Over the past two years, our world has fought the COVID-19 battle. This has brought government-imposed restrictions across the planet, often referred to as Public Health Orders. These restrictions have slowed the spread of the virus and, in so doing, kept people safe and, in many cases, alive.
There have been more than five million deaths worldwide, and while Australia has largely avoided the huge tolls seen elsewhere, every death here has been a tragic experience for loved ones and friends.
Every Australian has paid the price in minimising the spread of COVID-19. Some have endured extended lockdowns, curfews, not being able to travel beyond five kilometres from home, and one-hour limits on exercise. For those fortunate enough to have remained employed, working from home became a reality for many. Places offering the gift of community – such as pubs, clubs, gymnasiums, shopping centres, and places of worship – have been closed or off-limits.
How grateful we have been for digital technology that helped us remain connected to loved ones. FaceTime, Zoom, Teams and the like have been such a blessing because we could see their faces as we spoke with them. But such technology still couldn’t ‘beam’ us physically into the same room to hug someone.
Some of us have been robbed of the opportunity to say goodbye to a dying parent, unable to hold their hand in those last moments and tell them how much we love them. Others have been unable to walk their daughter down the aisle or hold their newborn grandchild. Many have a story that is heartbreaking and steeped in sacrifice.
As borders open and we begin to venture out again, this will create opportunities for families to reunite. Many are making plans to ‘be home’ this Christmas, to be around the table with family and friends. If this is you, can I encourage you to not take that moment for granted? Even if you aren’t a hugger, embrace your family and friends; show them your love. There is a lot of lost time to make up. Laugh as you have never laughed before, even if the Christmas cracker jokes are a bit ordinary. If you are a person who prays, thank God for the gift of family and friends and cherish that moment. And no doubt there will be a time to reflect upon the reality that some special people are missing from the table.
About 2000 years ago, a young couple waiting to be married were under government orders to take a journey to Bethlehem for a census. Their names were Mary and Joseph. Mary was advanced in her pregnancy and was separated from her family. She would remain so for several more years. As she gave birth to her son Jesus, people came to honour and worship him. Even though the young couple were on their own with a newborn, God sent strangers to be a blessing.
Whether you are ‘home’ for Christmas and seated around the table with family and friends or are connecting with just a few, I encourage you to consider the blessings that God has given – perhaps some of those you took for granted pre-COVID. Think about the love, joy, hope, and peace available to you through a relationship with Jesus. You might even want to embrace these virtues.
I’m looking forward to going home for Christmas. I hope you get the opportunity to do likewise.
Major Paul Hateley is Head of Government Relations for The Salvation Army Australia.