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A Different Christmas

This year I entered the realm of those celebrating Christmas without the context of the religious story.

For some people, Christmas is a religious holiday. For some, it's all about the food. For some, it's a family-based holiday. For some, it's just a required day off from work. For some, it's a reminder of family members who have died. For some, it means nothing because they have other religious beliefs.

For me, Christmas Eve has (almost) always been a church event. As a kid, our Christmas Eve schedule (big meal and opening presents) depended on the church schedule (four services, two children, at least two choir groups, plus acolyte duty). Christmas Day was a day to relax.

As my family grew, the meal and present opening traditions switched to Christmas Day, but Christmas Eve remained church focused.

But not this year.

No family was coming on Christmas Day, so there was no big meal needed, just a small dinner for two. Most gift suggestions were requests of gift certificates or donations, so presents came via email rather than physically. And there was the one package (ordered WEEKS ago) that got stuck at the Pittsburg post office for two weeks.

And there was no church. Yes, there was a St. Stephen's worship service available at 7 pm on Christmas Eve. I hope you watched it and enjoyed it. The music was great. The sermon was thoughtful. The sanctuary looked lovely.

I watched the service on Tuesday to "proof" it. By 7 pm on Thursday, I was busy with my stitching project and not inclined to sit in front of my computer and re-watch the service. (Confession time: I do church really well. I do not do online worship well at all.)

It was a normal day with a little extra fancy food and opening a few packages. With regular deliveries from Amazon, even opening a few boxes isn't an event anymore.

This is not a bah-humbug Christmas message. It was a nice day. We spent time on Zoom with children and siblings. Dinner was special but easy. The few presents we did have to open were meaningful. Daniel will never forget to send out a calendar again! It was a restful day.

It just was weird for me to have a churchless Christmas. But it was a reminder that what is normal for me isn't for others. Others celebrate Christmas as a secular day or don't celebrate Christmas at all. It has to be rough living in a culture which seems to believe that everyone celebrates some version of Christmas. And it must be confusing trying to figure out how the baby Jesus, Santa Claus, and Rudolph all fit together in the Christmas story. It's definitely a holiday of mixed messages.

2020 has been an eye-opening year. We've experienced things in different ways. We've had to relate to people differently. We've had the opportunity to see how others experience the world. We've had time to reassess the things that are really important to us.

Here's looking forward to a joyous new year, with continued new experiences and new adventures. Here's looking forward to a year where we can go back to some of the things that we've been missing and carry forward the lessons we've learned. Here's looking forward to a year where we can come back together again as a church family.

- Ann Iona Warner


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