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Quarantine Christmas, a Bit Similar to the First

Thomas Kelley/Unsplash

I'm a Midwestern boy. So, aside from a fistful of Christmas's spent with my grandparents in eastern Tennessee, I'm very used to spending the holiday in Iowa, Illinois or Michigan, all places that are known to have snow in December. But, the year 2020 marks yet another first time for something in my life.

COVID-19 cases in our children's school district, as well as state restrictions, seem to be ramping up while the temperatures drop and the sky clouds. Wanting to get away from it all, my wife and I made an unprecedented decision: we would have our children attend school completely online, my wife and I would still work online, and we would relocate and rent a house in warmer weather for a month. We drove almost 1200 miles to a place with palm trees and saltwater, and we don't know if our minivan will make it back. I'm still getting used to seeing snowman lights next to palm trees and green grass.

Perhaps Christmas is when us Christians will the most strongly feel the absence of in-person church gatherings the most. Some churches have a lot of expectations to meet for programming. Other churches may not even have a Christmas Eve service. But many churches have shown resource and creativity in response to the U.S. government guidelines, and sometimes the resulting "homemade" approach has served a congregation well, even better.

But it's still weird. My family will very likely watch a Christmas Eve service online. No passing candles. No smorgasbord of red/green apparel. And there's no way I can pull off a successful Santa prank this year. This isn't a vacation. We're still working or going to school full-time. Only on the weekends could we enjoy the "sights," but just the sights, as it isn't swimmable or warm sand type of weather at this time of year.

But, like mature church leaders, our family is doing what needs to be done and creatively making the best out of the situation.

I couldn't help but think about how Mary and Joseph felt on their way to Bethlehem. Did they want to go? Probably not. Did they, carrying an illegitimate child, still have the respect and support of their families? We don't know. And it couldn't have been easy to travel 75 miles in that place and time. Like my family, they may have found temporary housing among palm trees from complete strangers. The good news is that it wasn't difficult for a son of David (Joseph) to find housing from a fellow Jew in the town of David (Bethlehem). The bad news is that the guestroom (not "inn") of the house was occupied, so Mary and Joseph lived in the house's den, dominantly used as a farm stable in that culture.

I imagine, every once in a while, Mary or Joseph might have stepped back and said, "What in the world are we doing?" Sometimes my wife or I have done that. But Mary and Joseph were faithful to God's call. I imagine they were very comforted by the surprise visit from the informed shepherds.

So, what the original Christmas story and 2020 have shown us is that following God's call can be a risky undertaking that defies what's logical, practical and plausible. But the surprise rewards will be unimaginable.


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