By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
Christmas celebrations may look a little different this year for many Tennessee families as they deal with the reality of COVID-19.
But take heart. One thing COVID-19 can’t affect is the reason we celebrate Christmas — the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
Christmas is always hard on families who have lost loved ones during the year and 2020 will be no different. As of Dec. 13, there were 5,406 reported deaths from COVID in the state, according to www.tn.gov/health. As this paper is delivered to homes this week, that number will have increased.
And though one death from the disease is too many, the state health department reports that more than 340,000 people have recovered from the disease. That is something to be thankful for. I have had several relatives and friends who have recovered from the disease. We rejoice in those recoveries.
But we can’t take the disease for granted. Cases continue to spike and as of today, the vaccine is not ready for distribution. COVID-19 is still rampant and it is imperative we take precautions.
Many Tennessee Baptist churches have foregone live Christmas musicals and presentations this year. Still, some churches have found unique ways to still celebrate the birth of our Savior.
For those who could not attend a live performance or even watch one virtually, you can still celebrate the birth of our Savior. Sing your own carols, either as a family or individually. While driving down the road, turn off the radio and sing those beautiful carols such as “Silent Night,” “Away In a Manger” and “Joy to the World.”
And, as families gather for Christmas celebrations, many are taking precautions, not out of fear but out of love for family members who have health issues that may make them susceptible to the disease.
My family is no exception. For nearly 20 years, my immediate family has celebrated Christmas with my Uncle Bill, Aunt Lynn and their three children and their families in South Carolina. We traditionally have met in my aunt and uncle’s home or occasionally at one of my cousins’ home. This year, however, we will not be able to hold our annual gathering. My uncle has some serious health issues and our entire family wants to make sure he is protected.
We originally planned to social distance as individual families and wear masks except when eating. Is it something we wanted to do? Of course not. But this is not a “normal” year. Last week, as cases continued to spike in South Carolina, we decided the best thing was to cancel this year. Was it an easy decision? Actually it was. Protecting someone we love dearly took precedence over tradition.
While we can’t gather as extended family, I’m sure we will all gather with our individual families. That’s our plan for now. And while my aunt and uncle can’t be with us, we will continue a tradition they were doing when we first started sharing Christmas with them over 20 years ago. A family member will read the Christmas story on Christmas Eve. That is one tradition we can keep and treasure.
Other families will face similar decisions. A recent survey of Americans by LifeWay Research (see article) indicates about 35 percent of those surveyed planned to visit less with family this year. COVID-19 is real and families need to consider what’s best for all concerned.
The important thing is to not focus on what you can’t do. Focus on what you can do. So, if your family does have to alter a time-honored tradition this year, don’t get discouraged. Observe whatever traditions you can and change some others for the good of everyone. Whatever you do, keep the focus on Jesus. After all, He is “the reason for the season.”