I must confess that I don't mind wearing a mask all that much. The only times I do are when I'm doing something strenuous like exercise, but I generally avoid scenarios where that becomes a necessity.
There's something about wearing a mask that feels like I'm hiding. You don't know what kind of face I'm making under here. I don't have to smile at strangers if I don't want to. I feel more free to hum to myself when I'm walking around the grocery store.
I enjoy an extra bit of privacy thanks to my mask. And as an introvert, whatever helps provide that even when I'm out in public is welcome. I get to engage in a simple gesture to help keep others safe, and in return I get to conceal a little part of myself. It's win/win.
As much as we're being encouraged to wear masks these days, other masks seem to be falling away. This time of year, every company markets manufactured joy to the masses. This comes not only in the form of encouragement to purchase hundreds of brand new kinds of toys and cars with giant bows on their roofs, but also in the form of general sentiment and feeling.
This is the time to feel happy, to act out our own version of a Hallmark movie where all our problems wrap up in under two hours and by the end we're all wearing our unironic holiday sweaters while watching the tree lighting in the town square. If we're struggling at all, we're encouraged to hide it behind a green and red mask for a couple weeks, lest we all harsh each others' vibes.
These masks don't save anybody.
It's easy to have a problem with joy this time of year - with the encouragement to feel it, or with the very idea of it. A season that demands that we hide parts of ourselves is not worth celebrating.
This is why Advent, and not just Christmas, is important. These weeks are for shedding masks, for honesty with God and each other about how we're really doing and what kind of new birth that we need most.
The only mask we need to wear is the one that helps us love our neighbor. Getting rid of all the others helps us love ourselves.