By Brian Johnson
It’s Christmas Eve. But, it’s a weird Christmas Eve.
Today, for me at least, is usually a day full of big energy – on a normal year, there’s worship to lead, and there’s family in town, and there’s food to prepare, and so many people to see. That’s what a normal Christmas Eve looks like. But, it’s 2020, and this isn’t really a normal year.
Today is going to be a little different. There’s still worship to lead, but I’ll be talking to the blinking red light above a camera as we worship over livestream (We go live at 4 PM on Facebook, YouTube, and the Livestream Page on our website). In fact, weather permitting, we are still planning to gather in-person at 6 PM in the parking lot of Haymarket Elementary School (15500 Learning Lane, Haymarket), but, if it happens, it will be outside, with masks on and social distancing (for safety!), and it will only last about 20 minutes (because it’s cold outside!). (If you are planning to attend our in-person worship service, please fill out our online health acknowledgement form before arriving.) And, honestly, the weather is looking rough for today, and it’s quite likely we will have to cancel our outdoor gathering at 6 PM (it’s hard to keep candles lit in a heavy downpour with high winds!). Stay tuned to our Facebook page and our email updates for weather-related schedule changes to our 6 PM service. Honestly, it’s so 2020 to have a plan for outdoor worship on Christmas Eve get messed up due to a freak December rainstorm. It’s been a crazy year. But, even if in-person worship doesn’t happen, we will still worship together online this afternoon (and make sure to bring a candle to our online worship service at 4 PM).
Anyway, my point is that things are still happening, but they feel different. We are still seeing extended family, but only over Zoom and Facetime (we have a very full Zoom calendar on Christmas Day!). We are still eating all of our traditional holiday treats, but this year I’m making them all (instead of my mom, sister, and brother-in-law making most of them), and we have to eat them without anyone’s help. (I’m not complaining that much about extra Christmas treats.) It’s still Christmas, but it feels a little bit different.
On a normal year, as part of our candlelight Christmas Eve service, at the end of the service, after reading the story of the birth of Jesus from the Gospel of Luke, right before we lit our candles, I would read from the first chapter of the Gospel of John. These words from that passage feel particularly relevant this year:
In the beginning was the Word
and the Word was with God
and the Word was God.
The Word was with God in the beginning.
Everything came into being through the Word,
and without the Word
nothing came into being.
What came into being
through the Word was life,
and the life was the light for all people.
The light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness doesn’t extinguish the light.
Jesus is the Word of God and the Light of the World. And his light shines on even the darkest nights – and the darkness cannot overwhelm the light, even the darkest seasons can not extinguish the light of Christ.
So, I don’t know how you’re feeling this year; I don’t know how this day feels for you. I don’t know if you’re struggling with how different this year is, or if you’re full of joy and it just feels like any other Christmas. I don’t know if you are facing struggles in your family, with your friends, in your finances, or in any other part of your life. I don’t know if you’re disappointed about the possibility of rain changing your plans to attend an outdoor candlelight worship service (I am!). But, here’s what I do know: the light of Christ shines in even the darkest places. No matter how weird and different this Christmas feels, the message of Christmas is still true. The Light of the World has come to dwell among us. And, having come to be with us, he will never again leave us.
However your day looks, may you remember: God is with us. You are not alone. Christ has been born, light shines in the darkness, the Prince of Peace has come to bring us new life. Thanks be to God!
Merry Christmas! God is with us! Even in this weird year, that’s Good News worth celebrating.
If you’ve missed any of our previous daily posts, you can find them all archived here. We hope these devotional offerings are helping you encounter God this season!