It’s Christmas time once again, and depending on your own circumstances, maybe the first semi-normal Christmas in a few years. To be honest, even though we had our family gathering last year, this year feels much more normal to me, which is nice, but also possibly a little dangerous for me.
One of the problems, not with Christmas but with our celebrations of it, can be our tendency to routine things for granted. Tradition can become mere habit, a thing done without thought or purpose. The abnormality of the pandemic absolutely shattered that. Obviously, in a world where our daily routines are gone, from working, seeing people in person, or even just being outside the house without a mask on, major events and milestones also had to happen in drastically different ways.
Thinking about the ways many of us would celebrate Christmas in a normal year, it pretty much all focused on being around other people. Whether we are talking about time with our families, time at church, seeing friends, all of these being pretty central to they typical, classic Christmas. They also, though, bleed into the smaller preparations for it. In my family, my parents and I make a wide variety of snacks and treats leading up to Christmas, but honestly, with no work parties or big friend and family gatherings, we obviously needed to make less. Sure, you can still order and ship gifts to people, but you aren’t going to be wrapping it. Even the Christmas Mass or church service was probably something you watched streaming online, at least one of the two last years. Really, other than decorating the house and putting up a tree, nothing was the same.
All of that made last year hit a lot differently. The parties that I used to “always” go to felt fresher, more exciting and important than they had in years. Christmas Mass wasn’t a thing I had to do, or make time for, but a joyous opportunity to celebrate the mind-blowing reality that God chose become one of us, not out of curiosity or boredom, but profound love. Honestly, it was a fairly profound wake up call, because none of those things were revelations or new truths. That had always been the reality, but I had become largely numb to them. The challenge now, as it was before, is to never let myself confuse the normal with the dull.