Already in these early days of the Advent season, we know it is shaping up to be a “different” Christmas this year.

            In recent days, eager volunteers have been working in socially distant shifts to decorate our worship space at St. Matthew for Christmas. It’s a different way to decorate, but it’s a blessing to see the colors of the season return!

            We expect that Christmas parties, programs, and many other holiday traditions will be cancelled, or altered to work within coronavirus protocols. We also anticipate that we probably won’t get to see everyone in-person this year, either in our church family or our own families. While both at church and in our own homes, we’ll maintain our traditions as best we can (and possibly start some new ones), it will still be different from the Christmases we’ve known through the years. And that’s okay.

            This Christmas will be an adjustment and a challenge, but it’s also an opportunity. As Christians, we’ve long been saying things like, “Keep Christ in Christmas” and “Jesus is the Reason for the Season.” This year is a great year to live out those words!

            Maybe you’ll be doing a little less shopping this season or going to fewer social gatherings. Maybe you’ll be sticking close to home this Christmastime. Gathering, traveling, shopping, and other Christmas activities can be great, but they’re not why we celebrate Christmas. 

            We celebrate Christmas, this year and every year, because Jesus was born for us! We celebrate Christmas because He gave His innocent life for our forgiveness and rose again for our redemption. We celebrate Christmas because Jesus is with us, He is “Immanuel” (Matthew 1:23) even in the bleak midwinter, even at the peak of a historic pandemic.

            Lord willing, we’ll continue to hold all of our Advent and Christmas services this year at St. Matthew. I invite you to participate as you’re able, either through Facebook or in-person. Let’s all continue to take steps to keep one another healthy, and let’s also join in praying for medical professionals, first responders, those who are ill with COVID-19, an all others who are feeling the brunt of this pandemic. 

            It will be a different Christmas to be sure, but not everything has changed. Jesus still gathers with us to comfort us with His Word, forgive us of our sins, feed us through His Supper, and remind us that HE is the Reason, not only for this season, but for our Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love, both now and forevermore.

We gather to remember and share the same world-changing news that was shared by angelic messengers on the first Christmas night, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger … Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:10-12, 14)

            I wish you and your loved ones a blessed Advent, and a Merry, Christ-centered Christmas this year!

Peace in Christ,

            Pastor Kory Janneke