Changing Gears in 2020

So how was your Christmas? Different wasn’t it?

I’d bet it was also satisfying. It is December and people have adjusted to the restrictions. Video calls may not be ideal, but they serve a purpose when you can’t get together. 

The Christmas feast tasted just as good as if there were 15 people around the table, though admittedly it might take a little longer to get through the leftovers. The whole season though felt closer to “normal” than we might have expected. After nine months of varying restrictions, we’ve become used to masks, sanitizer and staying a couple of metres away from the next person.

In my family, attending church on Christmas Eve helped make the season feel more normal. Even if the way church is done was different.

Christmas Eve in our church always follows the same template. There are carols, candles, a short message and everything ends with the congregation singing “Silent Night,” a cappella, as the sanctuary is lit only by candlelight, each person holding a candle aloft as they sing.

We knew this year would be different. Pandemic rules meant that the church would be nowhere near full – maybe 15 per cent capacity. That’s not a problem for singing, though it still feels strange to sing through a mask. There would be no socializing before or after the service.

The tradition is that ushers would light the candle of the person at the end of each row, and the flame would be passed from one worshipper to another. In 2020 we knew that wasn’t going to happen; the church has been taking social distancing seriously.

As we drove to church I suggested that there would still be candle-lighting as we sang “Silent Night.” I figured it was too much part of the tradition to abandon in 2020. I thought we would each receive not a candle to be lit but a battery-operated tea light. My wife and daughter laughed – but I was right.

It wasn’t the same. but it was still powerfully symbolic. COVID-19 may have limited what we can do, it may have changed the way we do things – but it has not beaten us. Nor will it.

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