Throughout our city, wherever we traveled, we heard it.
In grocery stores, libraries, Target and Wal-Mart – even during church services where it occurred in stereo sound – one person in the aisle echoed by someone across the room.
The Great Cough of 2016.
In spite of vitamins, clean eating and daily spraying through the house with Lysol, my son and I both caught the Great Cough aka the Christmas bug.
With all our plans for the holidays suddenly deleted, we dragged our pitiful selves to our respective recliners. The cat glanced back and forth as we coughed, trying to rid our bodies of what the doctors called “Upper Respiratory Infection.”
Christmas plans immediately changed. None of our usual holiday foods. I wasn’t cooking anything except chicken soup. Unwrapped presents waited in Amazon boxes. Worse, we were not able to spend Christmas with the family in Oklahoma. We didn’t want to infect the entire clan, and truthfully – they didn’t want us within breathing distance. Why take our germs across the state line to risk the health of the entire family?
This was the first year since I served as a missionary in Honduras that I did not see my mother for Christmas.
We found an Urgent Care facility open on a Sunday. Bless the hearts of that medical staff ! We armed ourselves with legal drugs. Thank you to the hard-working people at CVS. Fully medicated, we each returned to bed and slept late — when the coughing didn’t wake us up.
But Christmas happened in spite of illness. A few days later, my son’s girlfriend and her family invited us for a delicious meal and an evening of fun. We played table games, wearing hygienic gloves, trying not to cough on anyone.
The next day, we piled cough drops into my purse and escaped the sick house for a movie. I highly recommend “Collateral Beauty” with Will Smith’s poignant performance of a man dealing with intense grief. The twist at the end gave us plenty of conversation starters as we managed an evening breakfast at IHOP.
Then we collapsed in our recliners again. Still coughing, but finding some joy in Christmas shows. The Grinch tried to steal Christmas from Cindy Lou Who while George Bailey learned how he lived a wonderful life.
Our Christmas may have looked different and not what we planned but we survived it. The promised Messiah still came. The beauty of Luke chapter two remained solid and the twinkle lights on our tree reflected a glowing angel at the top.
Hope survived our Christmas changes as gradual healing brought us upright to face a new year. The Great Cough of 2016 did not win, because Christmas is not about food, health, presents or travel.
During 2020, we are again faced with changes at Christmas. Instead of the cough, we have the ever-present and more lethal threat of COVID-19. Yet in spite of masks, social distancing and hygienic wipes — we can still celebrate this beautiful season.
Because the truth of Christmas isn’t about plates filled with ham and scalloped potatoes, opened presents with wrappings all over the floor or even the presence of warm bodies in the room.
Christmas incorporates the beauty of music, joy, light and a Love that forever transforms lives. No matter how we celebrate the season, the root of its beginning cannot change.
And in that security, we find hope in the eternal promise – Immanuel – God is still with us.
© 2020 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved.
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