Thanksgiving. Advent. Christmas. 2021.

This Peoria home has combined Christmas lights with a heart outline to spread love and kindness among neighbors during the COVID-19 pandemic. (The Catholic Post/Tom Dermody)

Have you noticed Christmas decorations going up in your neighborhood early this year? Perhaps you are among those who took advantage of the warm weather just after Halloween to string some colorful outdoor lights on your property. Maybe you’ve even put up your Christmas tree.

My social media feed has been filled with posts from people who, weary of the gloom of 2020, are jumping ahead to the joys of Christmas. Who doesn’t want to see and spread light and hope? The lights of Christmas 2020, in that regard, are much like the window hearts and sidewalk chalk art evident in Lent and Easter 2020 — signs to neighbors of our solidarity and our faith in these days of solitude.

“We need a little Christmas, right this very minute,” we seem to be singing well before Thanksgiving.

But whatever we do on the exterior, let’s make sure that interiorly we give each holiday and season its due.

A woman and girl put the finishing touches on an Advent wreath. Advent, a season of joyful expectation before Christmas, begins Nov. 29 this year. (CNS/Tom McCarthy Jr.)

On Thanksgiving, though we may miss the usual company of friends and family, the blessings remain abundant and the need to thank God great. Farmers in our region had a successful harvest. Vaccines for COVID-19 have been produced and are on the way. In 2020, we have come to new appreciation of heroes in our midst — health care workers, teachers, grocery store employees, priests, food pantry volunteers . . . the list is long, and our gratitude should be deep and evidenced by our words and actions.

Advent, a season of expectation and preparation, begins on Nov. 29. This year has been one long lesson in patience. Use these four weeks to express our longing for Christ. Utilize an Advent wreath. Start putting together a Nativity scene. Read from Scripture, especially Isaiah. Go to confession. Practice spiritual and corporal acts of mercy, mindful of those most lonely and in need. Prepare the way.

Then truly savor the wonder of Christmas. Maybe, with fewer social obligations and less travel, it may be easier to call to mind the miracle of that Silent Night in Bethlehem. We pray that, unlike Easter 2020, we can celebrate together in person at Mass. But whatever is in store, Christ our hope is born. There is no better Gift.

God willing, 2021 will then arrive. May it be a year of grace, peace, health, healing, and togetherness.

Let’s leave 2020 behind with a deepened faith. The coming celebrations, observed in order, offer many opportunities for doing so interiorly, even though on the exterior things will surely be different. — Thomas J. Dermody

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