Celebrations have been on my mind this past week. Celebrations of all sorts. I’ve been thinking about how the church has celebrated communion, how the church will celebrate advent. I’ve been remembering how the church can celebrate weddings and funerals, and I’ve been wondering how the church might celebrate child dedication and baptisms.

How we celebrate in this pandemic time has changed dramatically. These changes have forced us to think about what’s truly important, what’s essential to mark life transitions. I think of the first few times we’ve celebrated the lives of members of our congregation who’ve died, I think of how we’ve remembered, and shared and grieved together. I remember the conversations with the families about what’s essential, what captures and reflects the person we are remembering. I think of my own recent wedding and the conversations my wife and I had about what were the essentials? What did we need so that we felt that we celebrated our marriage well. What was important? What did we really want, and would we put in the work to figure out? What could we do without?

And now I turn my attention to Advent and Christmas, a season and celebration that is quickly approaching. So much of Christmas and Advent are wrapped up with traditions. I remember an old family tradition of always gathering and grandma and grandpa’s on Christmas eve to visit and enjoy food and goodies. That’s not happening this year. I remember a tradition I started of going to Christmas morning mass with my grandfather - that’s not happening this year. I remember candlelight church services, concerts, church banquets, Christmas parties and family dinners. Those are going to look very different this year, if at all.  And so I ask the same questions of myself, and to you too, questions that I pondered earlier.  As we thinking about Christmas and Advent, what are the essentials? What is important? And what can we do without? 

A word that I’ve been leaning into when thinking about these celebrations is ‘meaningful.’ I want our celebrations to be filled with meaning. And so I ask myself, what would be meaningful as we think about Advent? What would be meaningful for Christmas Eve service? What would be meaningful as we celebrate Christmas?  If we have usually found meaning in lighting our advent candles together, while we might not be able to do so in the sanctuary, perhaps then having everyone create their own unique advent wreath and together on Sunday’s light advent candles, will carry its own special meaning. What are other things that would bring meaning to this upcoming season? Perhaps we’ll see Christmas cards and Christmas letters return to prominence.  Maybe distanced door-to-door carolling will find an old but new place in our communities?

Our celebrations will look different this year, and that’s OK. Sure, we might not want them to, and that’s understandable, but it also opens the door for possibility. I could never imagine the wedding my wife and I shared, and now, I can’t imagine anything else. Will we be able to say the same thing about Advent and Christmas? I believe that while they may look different, our Advent and Christmas celebrations will be filled with meaning and we prepare to welcome the Christ child, who comes bearing hope, peace, joy, and love.