Bishop T.D. Jakes spreads message of optimism as families celebrate Christmas during pandemic

T.D. Jakes on hope, unity at Christmas
T.D. Jakes on hope, unity at Christmas 06:06

Many American families will gather on Christmas to honor traditions and exchange gifts, but perhaps not with as many loved ones as usual. For others this holiday is a painful reminder of a difficult year. 

In a Gallup Poll, 93% of Americans said they will celebrate Christmas in some way. But in a recent American Psychological Association survey, 60% percent of adults said they feel overwhelmed by "the number of issues" the country is facing, including the COVID-19 pandemic.

But while 2020 may have separated families, Bishop T.D. Jakes, a senior pastor of The Potter's House, a non-denominational American megachurch, told "CBS This Morning" that the year has actually made people more connected than ever before.

"We are more grateful, we are more appreciative, we are more polite. We have learned to not take our loved ones and our friends for granted. We are checking on each other more. We are more concerned about each other. I think that we have gotten back to what really matters," he said.

Jakes speaks about faith in humanity to his 30,000 member congregation in Dallas often. But his message has become pivotal in a time when the country remains divided. With 2021 approaching, Jakes sees Americans moving forward and slowly healing the divide.

"I think it is going to take time. Whenever there is a laceration, healing takes time. You can't instantly heal. And I think the lacerations have been so deep that we have to give ourselves time to heal. And we are going to heal one on one," he said.

The pastor said in order to overcome the negativity that can pervade everyday lives, people must look beyond labels and political parties. 

"We are going to heal in the way that we treat people that we can't label. What we are really upset about is labels, not people. And when you actually meet people outside of their label you find out there is more to unite us, then there is to divide us," Jakes said. 

But it's not just the political divide that is keeping families apart this holiday season. Many families will have an empty chair at their table due to the COVID-19 pandemic or are separated from loved ones for safety reasons.

The CDC has recommended people stay home this Christmas and avoid travel.

Despite the separation, Jakes said using technology could help fill the void, but it's also up to the individual person to embrace the separation. 

"We have to take advantage of the technology that we have. We have to Zoom and FaceTime and do all of the things that we can to be connected to people that we are far away from. But we also have to enlarge the understanding that being by ourselves doesn't mean we can't be celebratory," he said. 

For those who have lost family members to COVID-19, grief will be a new feeling this holiday season. While there are not many things people can do to ease the pain, Jakes said getting connected with the grief and building new traditions could help.

"When you see it's coming and you know it's going to be tough or a certain place is going to be tough, or a seat is going to be empty, change the game, rearrange things, break your tradition. ... Do something that is out of your norm so that you are not sitting in the misery of yesterday. You have to create a new future and a new paradigm for you and your family," Jakes said.

And like most Americans, Christmas will look a lot different in Pastor Jakes' home. Instead of a huge gathering filled with food and loved ones, it will be a smaller gathering with just immediate family members — but still plenty of food.