Last year was a difficult year for my family in several ways. At the start of the pandemic, my job at the time as a church communications director became stressful, especially after I had to do most of my work from home. We had to make so many on-the-fly decisions and communicate them that I wound up doing something work-related 31 out of 32 consecutive days.
The weekend everything shut down for the pandemic, my dad went to the hospital for blood clots in his lungs. We couldn’t visit him, and one of the nurses inadvertently put his phone charger in a place where he couldn’t get to it. He didn’t know what was going on in the world, and he was alone. His lung cancer had returned, so he came home with hospice care and passed away two days later. We weren’t able to have a funeral for him, and my mom’s sisters weren’t able to comfort her in person.
Things opened back up by the summer (thank you, Gov. Brian Kemp), and our lives got back to as normal as they could be. By December, we were looking forward to the comfort of Christmas traditions, especially our church’s Christmas Eve service, a tradition that has been part of our church from the time we began worshiping together as a congregation.
The COVID spike late in the year crushed those plans, so our church decided to film a “Christmas Eve special,” which ironically turned into a mini-superspreader event with 9 of the 12 participants getting infected.
Christmas Eve 2020 turned into our family watching the Eastridge Christmas Eve special on TV. We were able to partake in the other part of our Christmas Eve tradition of Waffle House for dinner. But you know what? We were together, and we were grateful for that blessing.
This year is much more “normal,” even with some life changes: a new job for me, a serious first boyfriend for my oldest niece, and welcoming the boyfriend’s family into ours. But one thing we’re particularly grateful for is that our church will have in-person Christmas Eve services. (I invite you to join us online at 5 and 6:30 p.m. Eastern time if you don’t have a church home or a service to attend.)
We’ve invited some family friends to join us, and some members of our family are even taking part in the service this year, lighting a special advent candle. And of course, we’ll go to Waffle House after church.
Every Christmas is different, but those Christmas Eve traditions that we hold dear are even more precious this year. Since 2020 interrupted our holiday tradition, we’ll cling to and appreciate the familiar this year. It’s those consistent traditions that often feel like home more than anything else, and that’s definitely not lost on my family in 2021.
Christmas is about celebrating the birth of Jesus, but it’s also about family and spending time together. The traditions we enjoy always enhance our worship and our appreciation of family. We don’t idolize them, but we love and enjoy them.
No matter how you celebrate or whether you worship, no matter who’s in your home or around your table, no matter what your traditions are this Christmas Eve, take time to appreciate the blessings in your life. After a couple of really rough years for a lot of people, we need opportunities to express our gratitude more than ever before.
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