It was a Merry Christmas and will be a Joyful New Year

Our Christmas celebration wasn’t quite what we had anticipated this year.

All of our children and grandchildren were planning to be in Chicago for Christmas, and we were looking forward to fun, games, puzzles, photos, and a little chaos. A few nights before Christmas, as Brian, Kelly, Dan and I were taking a walk to check out Christmas decorations, Kenny called from the road – halfway between Columbus, OH and here – to say he had just been informed that someone in Odette’s daycare class had been diagnosed with Covid. They turned around.

My mom endured another hospital stay and is now in rehab again, so our Christmas dinner wasn’t going to be as well attended as we had imagined.

But it was a Merry Christmas.

We celebrated Christmas Eve at Christine and Joaquim’s newly purchased home, which has much more room for their four busy children to create, study, learn (Christine is homeschooling them) and play. It was delightful. We met at our house on Christmas Day, connected with Kenny, Miranda and Odie via Facetime, and opened our gifts long distance. And while my dad came for Christmas dinner and we missed Mom, we had zoomed with Mom, Dad and the extended family a couple of hours earlier.

It wasn’t what we had anticipated, but it was still Christmas.

2021 was a year that began with Covid vaccinations, brightened considerably over the summer, and now we’re wondering what 2022 will bring. New variants? More vaccinations? Masks forever? (I sincerely hope not!)

We made the most of the relatively virus free months by celebrating Mom and Dad’s 67th anniversary and Dad’s 90th birthday with a big crowd of family. Shortly after that, Mom got very sick, so we cancelled our planned family trip to Boston and gathered in Chicago. Mom has been in and out of the hospital a few times since then and is still struggling to regain her strength. Nevertheless, Dan and I got away for a trip to Tacoma to see Brian and Kelly and visited Ashville, NC for some hiking and relaxing in October.

Many of our plans were disrupted in 2021, including Christmas. Things changed quickly and it was difficult and disappointing to adjust. But it was still Christmas. In fact, it may have been a more realistic Christmas than what we had planned.

Christmas is the celebration of Jesus entering human history as a baby and disrupting the plans of everyone starting with Mary and Joseph. Jesus, God with us, was born inconveniently to a virgin, taught a shockingly disruptive message, lived a life that challenged Jewish leaders, and eventually died a horrendous death that caused his followers to desert him. He faithfully followed his Father and forever altered the trajectory of history.

We don’t know what Covid will bring, how our plans will be upended or what disappointments we will face in 2022, but it will still be a joyful new year because God is working out his plan behind our disarray. Jesus was unexpectedly born to live among us, and his execution appeared to be a disruptive disaster, but it was God’s master plan to defeat death and give us life.

Joy doesn’t depend on circumstances but is found in a confident and settled faith in Jesus, the One who willingly came to earth to live and die for the joy set before him. He was looking ahead to joy and understood that God was directing his life. We too, in faith, will lead joyful lives no matter how our plans are upset. One day we will taste real joy and it will be like nothing we’ve ever experienced.

And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1b-2

It will be a joyful New Year!

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