My husband texts me that his office’s Christmas party is cancelled. While it’s not my favorite Christmas event, it’s another reminder of how different this holiday season will be. I erase the event from my calendar and flip the pages of my calendar back to November and December of last year (though 2019 feels like ten years ago at this point). Every block has something written in colorful Sharpie and coordinating holiday stickers. Pumpkin patch. Holiday markets. Christmas parties. Church dinners. Visits from family. Christmas light shows. Advent services. Add to that long trips to see family out of state, and we had a busy Thanksgiving and Christmas season last year.
I return to this month’s calendar page. While definitely fuller than April 2020 in the heart of the pandemic, the boxes for this November and December are less cluttered than years past. Only a couple of socially distanced parties and outdoor events scattered throughout these next six weeks. There are more celebrations planned in our own home, and everything is written in pencil instead of pen (because 2020). The first wave of emotion hits me as I remember the precious traditions we won’t get to experience this year. Singing Christmas hymns in our church. Watching Christmas movies in a local historic theater. Attending parties in friends’ homes every other night of the week.
The sadness subsides and is surprisingly replaced with peaceful contentment. I look at the remaining events on the calendar for 2020, and I’m grateful that I still have family to celebrate with. That I can still decorate our home. That my two-year-old daughter will only know delight instead of my own disappointment.
I also breathe out a sigh of relief over the holiday tasks I won’t miss. No rushing to Target at the last minute to buy the White Elephant gift no one will use. I’ll get to slowly bake Christmas treats with my daughter instead of rushing through it to get to a party. I’ll care less about the perfectly coordinated Christmas family outfits and more about snuggling in pajamas around the fire. Instead of squeezing in a quick Advent reading before bed, we’ll have time as a family to enjoy each day’s story. We’ll have fewer evenings trying to figure out babysitting and more nights at home drinking hot chocolate. There will be less holiday hustle and more Christmas peace.
I know the Christmas season won’t be this slow forever. Next Christmas, I pray I’ll get to see more friends and family. I hope I won’t have to shout “Merry Christmas” through a mask. I’ll want to again enjoy leisurely shopping through local stores instead of crossing my fingers that all my Amazon purchases arrive on time.
But this Christmas, I’ll savor the forced slowness. I’ll see Christmas for the first time through the eyes of my toddler. I’ll rest more and rush less. I’ll focus more on our own family traditions instead of all the social events. I’ll remember that the hope of Christ birth’s we celebrated last year is still here this year, even in the midst of a global pandemic and political discord. The Advent story we read last year is the same one we’ll read this year, because “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). If anything, we will celebrate more this year. Immanuel, God with us in 2019 is still with us in the “unprecedented” year of 2020.
Like we all learned from one of my favorite Christmas classics, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” Christmas is not about lights or presents or any other festive trappings. Yet what the Whos didn’t know is that our Christmas joy doesn’t come from within; it comes from the baby born two thousand years ago in a stable. He too lived in a time of political unrest, rife poverty, and widespread injustice. The reason we can still celebrate Christmas amid a global pandemic, contentious elections, and racial injustice is because the birth of Jesus Christ reminds us, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5).
I’ve already started listening to Christmas music this year, and these lyrics to my favorite Christmas song bring me even more joy than last year: “A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices, for yonder breaks, a new and glorious morn.” This year feels wearier than past ones, yet there is still the thrill of hope. Hope that Jesus Christ will come again—bringing healing, justice, and peace to all.
I write those words from “O Holy Night” at the bottom of my planner, reminding me that each new morning during these next two months is glorious. Reminding me that even in 2020 we can have hope and joy. Reminding me to savor the slowness of this Christmas season.
This post is part of a blog hop with Exhale—an online community of women pursuing creativity alongside motherhood, led by the writing team behind Coffee + Crumbs. Click here to view the next post in this series “Savor”.