Christmas 2020 was a Christmas like no other. With much of Canada under strict lockdown orders, it was a challenge indeed to try and get family together.
It all began for us in September when our Alberta kids saw the writing on the wall. They wouldn’t be able to make their annual Christmas trip to Ontario.
There were tears shed over that one, but eventually I determined that this would not ruin Christmas. Christmas is, after all, not about us at all! We began to scramble then, getting Christmas boxes full of gifts and goodies, all the while thanking God that COVID happened during the electronic age and not 30 years ago.
As December approached, Ontario’s COVID numbers began to rise shapely. With the exception of someone living alone, we were no longer allowed to gather with anyone outside our homes. That meant that my husband and I could at least “gather” with my 84 year-old mom; but it effectively wrote off our older son, in a university town whose COVID zone was considered “hotter” than our own. After much thought and prayer, he decided to put himself in 2 week isolation before coming home.
Then there was his Chinese friend who would be all alone for the school break. We really wanted to share our Christmas with her. After much thought and prayer, we decided to invite her anyway, as long as she was willing to put herself in 2 week isolation. We were pleasantly surprised when she agreed.
And the plans continued. We would “Zoom” in our Christmas Eve with our Alberta kids while our “new” household of four would gather in our home with my mom. Maybe not perfect, but certainly a good second best!
As infection rates continued to rise in Alberta, the church our son pastors decided that to encourage smaller and safer gatherings. They would therefore offer two Christmas Eve services. Given the two hour time change, that meant our Alberta kids would be tied up at their end until 10:00 PM Ontario time. Kinda late to start our Christmas Eve festivities in Ontario! Again, after thought and prayer, it was decided on the Ontario side that time didn’t matter.
Next the government in Alberta further cut the number of church attendees in half. Would our son’s church have to go to three Christmas Eve services? If so, especially with the time change, how would we continue with our plans? How would he and our daughter-in-law even be awake enough to enjoy Christmas Eve with us?
There were other complications as well. Due to COVID restrictions, our son’s in-laws, who live in the same town, wouldn’t be allowed to gather with them on Christmas Day. His mother-in-law came to the rescue: She would leave Christmas dinner on their doorstep, then the family would gather electronically and eat together. She, too, was busy putting together Christmas boxes and setting up “Zoom” dates for her other kids.
Our daughter-in-law soon got on the bandwagon by collecting recipes for special meals her husband always associated with Christmas….
In retrospect, I see a valuable lesson that we all learned last year. As my American southern-bred mother would say, “There’s more than one way to skin a cat”! When things don’t go the way we anticipate, there are always alternatives.
It all made me think. Jesus’ birth didn’t quite go exactly how His parents would have planned either! They would definitely have chosen a room to give birth, along with a couple of mid-wives and some clean water and fresh clothes…If given the choice, Mary might have even given birth in her home town! And I’m also pretty sure that none of them would have chosen Egypt as the place to bring up young Jesus. But they didn’t have those options. Instead, they had a stable (See Luke 2:7), they had a dream of warning, they had an escape to Egypt (See Matt. 2:13-14). But let’s remember that prophecies foretold Jesus would be born in Bethlehem (See Micah 5:2), that there would be a threat on His life (See Jer. 31:15), that He would be brought up in Egypt (See Hos. 11:1)! Hum. Maybe things weren’t quite as “unplanned” as they seemed!
The take-away from Christmas 2020 is this: In the face of any type of difficulty, let’s accept that things are different, that there are things we have lost. Let’s seek out new and acceptable ways to get through. We already know that God will give us the strength and the grace and the wisdom and everything else we need to get through tough times. He will hold our hands as He helps us go through the times of change. He will supply the wisdom, He will supply the ingenuity, He will supply the help from outside sources, and mostly, He will be there to wipe the tears from our eyes.
What losses are you grieving this Christmas? Whatever it is, God will help you get through. Remember? “ I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Phil. 4:13 NKJV). That “ALL THINGS” includes getting through a difficult Christmas. It includes finding alternative ways. It includes everything we could imagine.
Don’t forget to ask God to help you when the “norm” is no longer possible. He’s there with comfort and peace and joy to spare. All we have to do is call on Him: “And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.” (Matthew 21:22 NKJV); “Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” (John 16:24 NKJV). Then be prepared to see what might just “Zoom” in! For you never know that what actually happens may lead to a far better outcome than what seems so “ideal” in our eyes!
In His love,