Re-imagining Our Christmas Traditions
by Dena Hobbs
During a recent phone conversation with my pastor, he shared what he would miss most this Christmas. He is going to miss the lessons and carols service the most, while I will be longing for the children’s nativity play and subsequent cookie reception. In so many ways, this year will be a “different” Christmas. With COVID-19 surging, many of our time-honored traditions may not happen in the same cherished way.
This loss is bound to bring sadness. But within every change there also lies opportunity. So, I invite you to join me in re-imagining Christmas.
Since parents set the emotional tone for our household, let’s start by dealing with our own emotions first. Try to do this in a moment when your children aren’t nearby (you have my permission to lock yourself in the bathroom while they watch their favorite show). Allow yourself to grieve any lost rituals you will miss or people who will not be present. Cry. Pray. Throw the rubber duckie against the wall in anger. Then take some good deep breaths. We can’t always change our circumstances, but we can change how we react to them. So let’s plan some positive reactions.
Keep as many rituals as possible. There are some traditions we can keep, so go ahead and lean into those in a big way. Order the Christmas jammies. Put all the lights on the house and decorate the tree. Get mini trees for the kids’ rooms if you wish. Put out the nativity scenes and Advent calendars and wreaths. Watch your favorite Christmas movies while drinking hot chocolate. Multiple times. Go big on the at home traditions. Having a positive and stable home environment is what is going to make your family feel most safe and happy in this unusual time.
Re-imagine traditions when you can. In my conversation with my pastor, we stumbled on a couple of ideas. He is asking families to film themselves reading scripture passages and singing carols at home. Then the compiled and edited clips will be streamed for all to see. At the end of the video, there will be pictures of each family sharing Christmas greetings. It is not the same as having lessons and carols at church on Christmas Eve, but it is something; and these days, that means a lot. Talk about what your family will miss the most and imagine how you can re-create it. Can the kids have a gingerbread house contest with the cousins and grandparents on Facebook? Can the grandparents read Luke 2 to all the grandkids on a Zoom call? If your family is technology challenged like mine, maybe you can make care packs and send them to the people you will miss seeing on Christmas day. Find ways to stay in touch with the meaning of the ritual, even if its form changes.
Start a new tradition. If there was ever a year to try a new Christmas tradition, it is this one. What have you always wanted to do but your existing plans prevented you from trying? Some of our family members are going to a mountain cabin for the holiday. I have my eye on a couple Advent devotionals I would like to read daily as a family. And since we have teenagers, this may just be the year we open presents on Christmas Eve and sleep in on Christmas morning.
And remember, no matter how different your Christmas may look from the outside, one thing will stay the same. God came down to earth to be with us. To love us and be present with us in every joy and every sorrow. Nothing can separate us from the love and grace of Jesus, friends. As Paul wrote in Romans chapter eight, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” And that includes COVID-19. And as John tells us at the beginning of his gospel, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” So, let us look for the light this year. And let us reflect that light in our homes in all the ways we can.
Dena Hobbs is a campus minister in middle Georgia. She along with her husband, Jason, is the co-author of When Anxiety Strikes: Help and Hope for Managing Your Storm and the author of the Advent devotional Lighten the Darkness. She and Jason parent two teenage children.
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