When I think of Christmas, I am always filled with a warm, comfortable feeling of knowing that the same procedure follows every year. This includes the same foods, same people, same activities, and same feeling of fulfilment. However, when I reflect on 2020 and what a year it has been, I am inclined to believe that this Christmas will potentially deviate from our tradition.

Family

For our family, it is usually a time to connect within our insular five members, yet also with our extended cousins and grandparents. For me, Christmas always fell within the holiday season, allowing for ample time to build up Christmas spirit and ‘gees.’

The celebration of Christ’s birth and the promise of God’s plan for our salvation is exemplified through our gathering as family, feasting and blessing each other with gifts. Matthew 2:11 reminds us, “On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshipped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.”

My uncle is with us every Christmas, and at the time of gift-opening, he enjoys physically tearing open the wrapping more than the actual gift itself. This serves as a great reminder for us that the gifts are only earthly and cannot be ‘stored’ for eternal life, yet it comes across as if he is a little ungrateful for the things he receives. Its also another lesson to be grateful for each and everything with which I am blessed. These revelations make me think of 2 Corinthians 5:1 – “ Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.”

Death

However, this year has been different. This year my family suffered the loss of both my grandparents on my mother’s side. I was not home at the time, due to COVID19 restrictions, and found it difficult to accept the reality of their deaths as well as mourn properly.

With the global pandemic this year, I am sure that this was the case with many other people. My prayers are with those families for strength and supernatural peace which surpasses all understanding in this difficult time. Specifically, in John 16:33 – “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Employment

This year has also been different in that I have entered the workforce of this country in the rural Eastern Cape’s department of health, for my community service year. Firstly, I said goodbye to varsity holidays which always fall over Christmas time, and secondly, I am far (far) away from home and family.

This has been a good year of work experience, despite the disruption in our monthly clinics and outreaches to the areas which are supported by the hospital. I have grown in confidence as a physiotherapist as well as in my identity in Christ and who I authentically am. I have made some solid relationships, especially with my flatmate, and have learnt what it means to live in community. While in community service, we are not permitted to take leave in December, and therefore, Christmas is looking a lot more humid and majestic, with the Eastern Cape thunderstorms.

The meaning of Christmas

With these changes, it feels as if the true meaning of Christmas has been fleshed out: I am grateful for life, and even more so for the life of Jesus, and the life he invites us to share with him both here and throughout eternity.

I am reminded to abundantly love those who are in my life, and fight for those people to come to know Christ, so that they may share in his love and salvation.

As Christmas is ultimately a celebration of Christ’s birth, I am reminded of what Christ’s purpose on Earth was, and that we have purpose to continue His work too. Even in this pandemic, through death, through separation and life changes, Jesus is here with us and is ready to support and love us through the hard times.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great could of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him on the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

Strength

This year has been tough, let us not play it down. But this year has taught us many important lessons too. Lessons of love, family, purpose and the gift of life – let us hold onto these and celebrate Christmas in unison. Merry Christmas!