In the beloved Christmas hymn, O Holy Night, we hear about a world that has long been “in sin and error pining …”
This sentiment rings true like never before. Because it feels a lot like the world in 2020.
After nine (long) months of shutdowns, church and school closings, mandates, and civil unrest, we are preparing to enter the Christmas season with a cautious “thrill of hope.”
We are ready for a little Christmas cheer, for twinkle lights, jingle bells, evergreen, and eggnog. More than anything, we long to welcome the Newborn King into our hearts and homes.
The Weary World
But Christmas will look differently this year. Depending on what state (or country) we live in, Covid-19 restrictions will alter our Christmas plans and traditions—slightly or significantly.
Perhaps we will gather with fewer people around the Christmas tree. Perhaps concerts and pageants will only be seen via livestream or canceled altogether. Perhaps Christmas shopping will come with unforeseen shipping delays or extra-long lines. And what about Mass? The thought of missing Christmas Mass leaves all of us with a heavy heart.
Whether we are disappointed in how this year has turned out, or whether we have reluctantly resigned to the unprecedented circumstances we have faced, it is safe to say that we are weary.
And that weariness that we feel deep within is exactly why we need Christmas. So, like the hymn proclaims, our souls can feel their worth again, and the entire weary world can truly rejoice in the hope that Christmas promises … in the hope that Christmas brings.
A New and Glorious Morn
Because no matter how different this year, this Christmas is, one thing remains the same: Jesus is coming. He is born to be our Savior and our friend.
For a child has been born for us, a son given to us … and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. // Isaiah 9:6
So, my dear sisters, no matter how different Christmas 2020 is, we have an incredible opportunity to make it memorable, meaningful, and holy. And we only have to turn to the Holy Family to help us enter into the unexpected with surrender, reverence, wonder, and awe.
Surrender What is Expected
As we realize the many plans that will be altered or canceled, let us ponder how Mary and Joseph surrendered their expectations and plans to be the parents of the Messiah. Was their surrender hard? Of course!
But it was also blessed. And like Mary announced to the Angel Gabriel:
Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word. // Luke 1:38
Surrender is not a trite, brushing off of our disappointment and sadness. Rather, it is gathering up our hurts, kneeling beside the manger, and giving them to the Christ Child.
This may not be a one-time surrender, either, and that is okay. Here are a few ways to repeatedly offer our Christmas disappointments to the Lord.
- Pray through Scripture verses that focus on surrender.
- Stay present to Advent and be open to hope.
- Care for your mental and emotional wellbeing with a self-care (and soul-care) routine.
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Grow in Reverence for the Holy
Often I think about those moments leading up to the first Christmas and what they must have been like for Mary and Joseph. To be the only two people who knew of Christ’s coming! What did their Advent look like?
Perhaps Joseph spent his evenings building a cradle, while Mary sewed swaddling clothes for her baby boy. I bet their Advent was quiet and prayerful, as they waited for the Messiah to come.
So often, our Advents can be anything but quiet and prayerful. But perhaps with fewer events and obligations vying for our attention this year, we can see it as a unique blessing and gift. For Jesus will truly be at the center of our holiday, our holy day.
- Find a place of honor for your Nativity scene.
- Bask in the glow of a fire or candles, contemplating the coming of the Light of the World.
- Make a quiet playlist of Christmas hymns, including O Holy Night.
Welcome Jesus With Wonder and Awe
Recall Christmas as a child. The excitement, anticipation, wonder, and awe. This Christmas, with everything in this world seeming to resist joy, let us ask the Holy Spirit to carry away the burdens of 2020 and replace them with extra grace to truly celebrate the birth of Jesus.
What gift can we give Jesus on His birthday? How can we truly celebrate Him and all that is good in and through Him?
- Host a birthday party for Jesus (this is especially wonderful with small children).
- Give gifts of faith to your loved ones.
- Celebrate the 12 Days of Christmas by learning what each day symbolizes.
As we come to the end of the most difficult year imaginable, it is fitting that we fix our gaze on the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ, on Christmas. Concluding this year with such a beautiful and hopeful season lifts our hearts to Heaven, draws us close to the creche, and renews our faith in the One who promises to make all things new: Emmanuel, God with Us.
O come, let us adore our King! Let all within us praise His holy name!
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