Written by Sherry Schumann, COO, Christian Grandparenting Network
How did the pandemic affect your Christmas celebrations this year? Did you have to cancel some time treasured traditions and events like the annual neighborhood drop-in, or caroling party at the local nursing home? Did you decide to watch a live Facebook stream instead of attending your church’s Christmas Eve service?
Every time I consider COVID’S impact, I remember one of the first articles I ever published. It’s a timely piece; a powerful reminder that Christmas comes even when our traditions and celebrations have been removed.
Let’s revisit that article:
For some believers, the Christmas season arrives when they unload a beautifully carved Nativity scene and brightly colored ornaments from their attics. For others, Christmas begins as soon as they exchange carefully chosen gifts with their families and friends. For me, the celebration of our Savior’s birth starts on December twenty-fourth, when our church organist plays the first four notes of “Joy to the World.”
I remember the year that everyone in our family was scheduled to help in one capacity or another with the Christmas Eve worship service. As I gleefully checked off the days of December, my anticipation rose to an all-time high. I repeatedly hit the “replay” button on a series of mental pictures created by my overactive imagination: our youngest son would be an adorable yet dignified torch bearer; our middle son would look regal carrying the cross down the aisle; our oldest son would do an exemplary job assisting the minister as he prepared the elements for communion; my husband and I would serve by lending our voices to a beautiful rendition of Handel’s Hallelujah chorus. The thought of this “perfect Christmas” brought tears to my eyes.
On the evening of December twenty-third, I was frenzied with activity.
I poured over an extensive to-do list, checking off each agenda item that had been completed:
- Decorate the church’s fellowship hall for Baby Jesus’ birthday party. Check.
- Make two more batches of chocolate fudge and four dozen sugar cookies for members of the congregation who do not want birthday cake. Check.
- Wrap the gifts for our “secret pals.” Not checked.
- Practice Hallelujah Chorus. Not checked.
The list seemed endless, and we had less than twenty-four hours before Christmas officially arrived. I noticed a growing queasiness in my stomach but passed it off as exhaustion or excitement or a combination of both. I adore sweets, so it was reasonable to assume I had eaten too many homemade goodies from the office.
By midnight, I faced the grim reality that my ever-increasing nausea wasn’t exhaustion, excitement, or chocolate fudge. I had a stomach virus. I was on my first round of vomiting and diarrhea when our oldest son hollered from the upstairs bathroom. Within the hour, my husband fell victim to this vicious viral attack.
Lying on the bathroom floor during the wee hours of the morning, I began to think about Jesus’ mother as she journeyed on the back of a donkey, laboring with her firstborn child. Did she experience the nausea I had while in labor with our third son? Was the back pain severe as she swayed side to side, balancing on the back of an unwieldy beast?
As I gripped the edge of the toilet bowl, my thoughts shifted to the perfect Christmas Eve I had envisioned only hours earlier. The trays of sweets, lovingly prepared by my own hands the previous day as a gift for the congregation, would be thrown into the trash can on the side of the house. My “secret pal” would go home without a gift under the tree, wondering about my identity, wondering if she had been accidentally forgotten. The Hallelujah Chorus would be sung without my husband’s strong tenor voice in the choir loft. Our sons’ responsibilities would be fulfilled by another mother’s children. The only tears that I would cry that day would be tears of nausea and pain, of unfulfilled expectations, of self-pity.
Slowly, ever so slowly, God’s Truth surfaced in my thoughts. Christmas would come because a brave young woman—despite her own fears of pain or tears of unfulfilled expectations—gave birth to the Son of God in a lowly stable on the outskirts of Bethlehem.
God didn’t need my frenzied activity leading up to the twenty-fourth of December, my dedication to tradition, my cookies, or my fudge…
He didn’t need our voices in the choir singing Joy to the World or the Hallelujah Chorus…
He didn’t need our stately red robes or beautifully wrapped secret pal gifts…
…And He definitely didn’t need me to deliver Christmas!
Christmas would come because of our Father’s immeasurable love for each one of us, and it would be PERFECT.
Final notes as we reflect on Christmas 2020:
I still count Christmas 2003 as one of my best. The lesson I learned that year is as true today as it was seventeen years ago. Christmas doesn’t come because of family traditions, church activities, or community gatherings. It comes because God sent His Son to redeem this broken and hurting world. After all, CHRISTMAS isn’t about how we celebrate; it’s about WHO we celebrate!
How did God speak to you this Christmas? What lesson did He teach you? Now, go tell your grandchildren!