Christmastime in a pandemic. That certainly has an unnatural ring to it. Christmas 2020 is going to be a lot different than the average wintery holiday of the past, that’s for sure. From the pandemic, to the injustice and unrest, to the fires and hurricanes, 2020 has been one for the history books. This year has felt wrought with disappointments and hopelessness and anxiety.
But does that mean it will be any less special? Any less important? No.
Maybe you’re feeling skeptical. After all, in some places, gatherings of any size aren’t allowed! What’s Christmas without Christmas parties, holiday performances, and being with friends and family like always?
This Christmas, it feels like a lot of traditions and plans have been thrown out in the snow.
Actually, it’s a lot like the night we celebrate.
about 2,020 years ago…
Take a moment to recall the Christmas story–Jesus’ birth. If you’ve grown up in church, you know it like the back of your hand. But engage your imagination and emotions, and really think about it. These were real people, just like us, not just Bible characters.
Mary was a young woman who was going to get married, and then she’s told incredible news: she’s been chosen by God to be the Messiah’s mother! But this also meant that her engagement, marriage, reputation, and even her life might be on the line.
Joseph was the man who was going to be Mary’s husband, and then he finds out she’s pregnant. That certainly threw a wrench in his plans! (Until the Lord explained how she was pregnant, that is.)
And how about the birth itself? Mary was in her third trimester, riding on a donkey. There wasn’t even room at the inn. The innkeeper turned away a young woman in labor! Talk about things being far from ideal!
And then, God in the flesh, born into a humble little human being, is born in a stable. God–the most holy, only worthy being in the universe–was born in a smelly, unsanitary, lowly stable where the animals lived, and was literally placed in the feeding trough.
Yet this is the story we cherish. This is the birth we celebrate. This is the story we tell every year–the one where seemingly everything that could go wrong went wrong.
Doesn’t that resound with us a little bit more this year?
He is with us
Another thing to remember is that the Israelites waited for hundreds of years for the promised Messiah. Hundreds of years. The Old Testament and the gospels give us a glimpse of the hardships they faced for centuries as they looked forward to the hope of their redeeming King, Jesus. Immanuel (Isaiah 7:14).
Immanuel means God with us. A lot of us may know that already, but really let that sink in:
God with us.
Jesus dwelt among us (John 1:14)! He walked this earth and experienced the brokenness of this world, and He sympathizes with us (Hebrews 4:15). He was born to die for us so that we could live with Him and enjoy Him forever, rescued from our sins and made children of God once we surrender to Him in repentance and faith. How absolutely incredible is that?!
And before He ascended into heaven, Jesus promised to always be with us, “to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).
As I’ve thought about one of the names of Jesus we reflect on at Christmas, Immanuel, it has become so much more personal and comforting to me. For some of us, 2020 has presented us with more unique and unprecedented hardship than we’ve ever gone through in our lives.
Often in the darkest times, in our shakiest moments, in the grief and disappointment, our faith is tested and refined like no other time. Our relationship with Him is shaped and deepened. We grow closer and more dependent on Him. We hold on to God because we’re reminded that He is the only steadfast person in our lives, and we can fully trust Him.
God is with us.
He is Immanuel.
So. It’s Christmastime in a pandemic. Things will definitely look different, but as you and I prepare for this incredible celebration of Jesus’ selfless and sacrificial life, I pray that we treasure all of the blessings and lessons God has brought us in and through this year.
Of all the years, this is the year we can cherish our Savior, Immanuel, and experience His closeness more than ever before.
I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!
- What are you doing this Christmas to remind you of Jesus’ birth and the Gospel?
- What’s one thing you’re thankful for during this unique Christmas season?