But in true 2020-style, and after the last-minute decision of my husband and I to go out to dinner last Sunday, we now find ourselves in lockdown for 14 days. This will be the first time in my 49 years that I will miss Christmas with my family.
Despite our negative tests for COVID, we still need to isolate until midnight on December 27.
I know it’s not the worst thing to have happened this year. My husband was made redundant like so many others, and my extended family has experienced more than its fair share of setbacks, loss and grief. And in our global family, over 75 million people have suffered from COVID, more than 1.67 million have sadly died, and the lives and wellbeing of countless millions have been affected.
It was a sobering start to the year as a devastating bushfire season turned the normally sea-blue summer skies a smoky grey for weeks on end. And it seems for my family, and many other families caught up in COVID-19 hotspots, stuck overseas, struggling without work, dealing with illness and the loss of loved ones, that 2020 will finish the way it started, with a veil of solemnity shrouding the sparkly lights and tinsel of Christmas.
I was feeling pretty sorry for myself about not spending Christmas Day with my daughter – who’s in isolation with her partner – or my family, until one of my sisters reminded me that Christmas is not a date on a calendar. She said, “Christmas is family”.
Whether you’re a believer or not, the story of the first Christmas and the holy family holds a lot of power. It shows us that many times on the journey, things won’t go as planned, and that in life there will be setbacks and heart-breaking losses. I can only imagine that Mary’s anguish standing at the foot of her son’s cross 33 years later is the same gut-wrenching grief my cousin felt when she tragically said goodbye to her adult son this year.
In the Christian story, Jesus rose again and through his resurrection brought new life, faith and hope to the world. In our human story, we’ve been knocked down many times this year, but we’ve also witnessed that same spirit of resilience, trust and hope.
We’ve seen it on the scorched faces of our firefighters and the masked faces of our hospital workers. We’ve seen it on the generous faces of those giving many millions of dollars for our communities affected by bushfires, drought and floods. We’ve seen it on the encouraging faces of our teachers and home-schooling parents through vast periods of remote learning. We’ve seen it on the tired faces of our public servants and politicians. We’ve seen it on the tear-streaked, smiling faces of our families and friends on grainy Zoom screens.
And today, I see it on my own face as I try to come to terms with a COVID-19 Christmas. My family might not get to celebrate it together on December 25, but that’s OK because if Christmas is family, we can celebrate it every day of the year.