Remembering Sussex Carol

Well readers, I know this is like three months late, but due to frequent headaches around Christmas time, I could never stay focused long enough to finish it before I was kept busy again with my second semester of seminary school. But I invested so much into this post that I wanted to finish it, and actually come to think of it, this is a fitting time to post it because my brother finally managed to visit this past weekend, and we just had a wonderful celebration combining Christmas, my birthday and his birthday. But you are welcome to bookmark it until next Christmas if you prefer.
This past Christmas, I found myself thinking about Christmas of 2001, a holiday season that felt strikingly comparable to this past holiday season. I wrote about it in this post, inspired by the killing of Osama Bin Laden in May 2011. It was the Christmas after 9/11, and although people went through the motions of Christmas–shopping, decorating, baking–simmering beneath the surface was a national, palpable sense of sadness. Our own family was sad too because on August 31, my paternal grandpa passed away, and then just days before Christmas, a neighbor and close family friend passed away unexpectedly. The transition to middle school that Fall was a little bumpy for me as well. For starters, middle school started at 7:20am, which meant I had to be ready to catch the bus by 6:30, almost two hours earlier than elementary school. I quickly discovered I wasn’t a morning person, and recall many frantic mornings where I am just getting out of the shower as the bus is pulling up, Mom handing me a bag of cereal to eat on the bus because there wasn’t time for breakfast. When I managed to get up early enough not to have to eat on the bus, I would sleep on the bus, groaning when we arrived at school far too soon, walking to class literally dizzy with fatigue.
In sixth grade, students were divided into “houses”, groups of fifty students taught by two teachers, one for English and Social Studies, and the other for Science and Math. Both were excellent teachers, passionate about the subjects they taught. The teacher for science and math invited a doctor on a couple different occasions who brought real organs–some from human cadavers, some from pigs whose organs are similar–and we could put on gloves and touch them. But their personalities were completely different, and the teacher for Science and Math I sort of feared, while the teacher for Social Studies and English, who I had in the morning, I absolutely adored. She always had a sunny disposition, and spoke in a warm, gentle tone. She began each week by posting on the board a positive affirmation which we would repeat each morning, and this was followed by a brain teaser to wake our brains up and make us smile before starting the day’s work. She was also personable, sharing cute stories about her grandson who was three years old at the time, and bringing the academic material we were covering that day to life with her own personal experiences. By contrast, I could hear the other teacher next door hollering “sit down everyone! We’ve got a lot to do today!” My Christian faith wasn’t vibrant at that time, but even then I remember silently thanking God I didn’t have this teacher first thing at 7:20 in the morning. But this teacher I adored had to take a leave of absence for a couple months to care for her father whose health was failing. The substitute teacher did her best. I think she could tell I wasn’t the only one who missed the regular teacher. She assured us she was in regular contact with our teacher, and was very compassionate when I approached her one day wondering when she would be back. But the substitute didn’t post the weekly affirmation, didn’t do the brain teaser, didn’t share personal stories or bring the subjects to life. She just got right down to the lesson plan. So in sixth grade, I experienced a very small taste of what so many people are feeling right now, a feeling that everything is in turmoil. The nation was sad, my family was sad, and the comforting presence and routine of this teacher was taken away as well.
At the approach of every holiday this past year, the CDC has admonished people to stay home, worship virtually, only gather with people in their households, advice which millions of people ignored, leading to a surge in COVID-19 cases. For those of us who recognize the seriousness of this pandemic, the temptation to condemn these people stubbornly sticking with their usual holiday traditions as selfish is understandable. Indeed I have found myself judging such people harshly in my mind as well. But then I saw this New York Times editorial in which the author consulted psychology experts to explain how we are evolutionarily hardwired to crave predictability. We take comfort in routines and rituals like yoga on Tuesdays, church on Sunday mornings, and annual holiday traditions. When these routines are disrupted, we feel threatened, which manifests itself in negative emotions like anxiety, anger, fear and even hopelessness. This explains why some people have opted to stubbornly continue with their usual holiday traditions. They are well aware of the danger of the virus, but the prospect of altering tradition feels more threatening than the virus. I do not mention this article to justify the inconsiderate behavior of these people. But as I read this article, I found myself having a flashback to Christmas 2001, and realizing from that experience, I can understand the emotional place these people are coming from. In that season of upheaval in the nation, at home, and at school, I longed for the comfort and joy of our usual holiday traditions, but it was not to be.
We preferred to stay home for Thanksgiving. I love listening to the Macey’s Thanksgiving Day parade on television as the wonderful aromas of turkey and pie slowly fill the house, and we all enjoy picking at leftovers all weekend. But that year when my paternal Grandpa passed away, Grandma wanted to host one more holiday at her house before she planned to sell it and downsize several months later. Usually, I loved going to Grandma’s house. She was a fabulous cook, and she doted on me. But that year, I longed to be home watching the Macey’s Day parade. When I expressed this longing to my parents, they matter-of-factedly told me it wasn’t going to work out this year. But even if I had been home to watch the parade, it probably wasn’t the festive parade I was accustomed to given that most of the lives lost on 9/11 were in New York City.
But we planned to come home on Friday since Mom had to work every weekend. Maybe if we left early enough, we could still salvage the tradition of cutting down our Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving. But this wasn’t to be either.
The following weekend, Saturday December 1, Dad and I went to our Christmas tree farm, but I could tell his heart wasn’t in it. Instead of chatting and listening to carols on the radio as we did most years, we drove there and back in silence. Since I could tell his heart wasn’t in it, neither was mine. I didn’t even protest when he selected an extremely prickly spruce tree. Usually I enjoyed helping Mom unwrap and hang ornaments, especially the sentimental ones I rembered making in elementary school, and the following Friday evening, I wanted to continue this tradition, but found the tree too unpleasant to touch, and could only bare to hang a couple ornaments, prompting Mom to say something to the effect of, “if no one is going to help me decorate the tree, I don’t want to do it anymore.” Mom understood why I couldn’t bare to touch the tree: she preferred the softer needles of the fir trees herself. I think she also believed me when I assured her I hadn’t lost interest in tree decorating as my teenage siblings had years ago. Even at eleven years old, I understood that her remark wasn’t an expression of resentment about having to decorate the tree all by herself. It wasn’t about the tree at all. It was her way of expressing a sadness we were all feeling that year.
On the last day of school before Christmas break, there were the usual classroom parties, but at a school assembly where the seventh and eighth grade choirs performed, the principal admonished us all not to go off and play video games or do our own thing, but to really spend time with and appreciate our families. The principal in elementary school never spoke to us that way before, and I got the sense this middle school principal didn’t usually speak like this either, but that she wanted us to start growing up, and thinking about what really matters in life in light of 9/11.
Most years growing up, we went to church at 4:30 on Christmas Eve so that we could have a leisurely Christmas day eating a special breakfast, usually quiche, and playing with our toys. One year, I think it was Christmas of third grade, my sister was in the church bell choir which performed on Christmas morning. I wasn’t entirely thrilled about breaking with tradition that year, but recognized it was important to support my sister. But in 2001, perhaps due to the sadness and lack of holiday spirit, we were running behind getting all of the baking and housework done for Christmas, so Mom wanted to go to church Christmas morning again. This time, I threw a fit. I think ultimately, Dad gave in and took me to church Christmas Eve.
But on Christmas morning when all of the presents had been opened and I did not get an American Girl doll I wanted, that was the final straw. It didn’t matter that I had received many other wonderful gifts, including a really cool braille Scrabble game we still enjoy to this day. It didn’t matter that next door, neighbor kids the age of my siblings were waking up without their father who had been active and healthy just days earlier. It didn’t matter that Grandma was waking up alone that Christmas after 52 years of marriage, or that even though Grandpa’s death did not come as a surprise–he was old and had heart problems for years–my dad was probably missing his father that first Christmas without him. It didn’t matter that 3,000 families were grieving the senseless loss of loved ones in a terrorist attack. I had received a doll every Christmas morning I could remember, and when Santa didn’t bring a doll that year, I remember quickly running upstairs to my bedroom, closing the door and sobbing. Mom found me, gave me a hug, told me I might receive it later that day when Grandma, my Aunt and Uncle were coming for dinner. My funk eased considerably when Mom got me preoccupied helping her dip pretzels, and when my grandma, aunt and uncle came, I did receive the doll I had wanted. (I later found out Mom knew that Grandma was going to bring the doll. She anticipated I might be disappointed when I didn’t receive it on Christmas morning, but Grandma really wanted to get the doll and be there when I opened it). So overall, it ended up being a relatively happy day for me, but the sadness was still palpable, especially when the neighbor kids came over to visit that afternoon, at which time they still had not opened their presents because the prospect of opening gifts without their father was just too sad.
Finally, though we didn’t have a set date for watching it, sometime every year between Thanksgiving and Christmas day, we would all sit down and laugh together watching our “family movie” Nationalampoon’s Christmas Vacation. But that year, no one else but me wanted to keep this tradition. Mom even thought it seemed sacreligious to watch it that year, so we didn’t. When Dad tucked me in on the night of January 1–school resumed January 2 that year–and asked “did you have a good Christmas?” I remember choking out a “yes,” in the same way you would say you’re doing fine when a co-worker asks how you are doing because the truth is just too complicated to explain, and they’ve got so much on their own plate you don’t want to burden them with it anyway. I think in the same way people today are just tired of the restrictions, and the uncertainty the pandemic has brought about, that year, I was just so tired of the sadness in the air. Just as some have chosen to cope by stubbornly sticking with tradition despite the risk of spreading or contracting COVID-19, that year, I too longed to bury my head in the sand, deny the sad realities of that year, and carry out our traditions with the same passion we always did. I think my regular morning teacher in sixth grade would have facilitated some time to talk about our holiday break, at which time I might have learned that I wasn’t the only one who felt the sadness in the air that year, that mine wasn’t the only family who altered traditions out of respect for the national mood that year. But even just a positive affirmation and a brain teaser would have been comforting. But as it was, there was a substitute teacher, and when the bell rang at 7:20 on Wednesday January 2 that year, and the substitute teacher launched right into a lecture on the geography of ancient Mesopotamia, it was all I could do not to burst out sobbing at my desk again. I had this weird sensation, as if it would always be winter, and we had skipped Christmas. I was in desperate need of comfort and joy, but it seemed there was none to be found.
In my previous post, I mentioned that in February of sixth grade, I insisted my mom officially confirm there is no Santa Claus. Even if that previous Christmas had been a normal Christmas free of hardship, it would have been time to learn the truth. I was in middle school after all, and kids would laugh at me if I let it slip that I still believed. But that previous Christmas was a factor behind my insistance on the truth. That February, when the decorations were down and normal people had long ago put the previous Christmas out of their minds, in quiet moments I found myself thinking back to Christmas feeling terrible about how I had behaved. I loved being treated like a grownup, such as when my parents trusted me to stay home alone when they ran errands, or let me in on adult conversations, but when tragedy disrupted Christmas traditions and dampened the usual joy, my reaction was shamefully childish. If I wanted to be treated like a grownup, I think I recognized it was time to approach Christmas like a grownup too by officially facing the truth about Santa.
As shocking and horrible as 9/11 was and still is, in some ways, the sadness brought on by this pandemic is worse than the Christmas after 9/11. For one thing, it is not just a national tragedy. It is a global pandemic, although because of the refusal of many to follow the advice of health experts, and the incompetence at the federal level under President Donald Trump, the United States has the highest pandemic death toll in the world. While 9/11 was contained to one awful day, this pandemic has been raging in this country since last March, and at Christmas time, all of the leading doctors expressed fear that the darkest days of the pandemic were still yet to come. While 9/11 killed 3,000 people, by this past Christmas, COVID-19 is confirmed to have killed over 320,000 people, and one doctor pointed out we are experiencing a 9/11 death toll each day. Although there was a collective sense of national mourning after 9/11, most Americans did not personally know any of the souls lost on 9/11. Other than some anxiety for people who had to travel by airplane, logistically speaking, 9/11 did not affect the day-to-day lives of most Americans. But with over 20 million confirmed cases as of this past Christmas, 350,000 dead (now over 500,000), and the pandemic still raging, I heard one doctor interviewed leading up to Christmas predict that before the pandemic is said and done, we will all know someone who died of COVID-19. Both of my grandmothers live in assisted living facilities, and statistically, congregate care settings have been ravaged by this virus. Both facilities have had confirmed cases, but fortunately, my grandmothers had not contracted the virus. (Both have now received both doses of the Moderna vaccine, greatly reducing their risk and allowing us to breathe a sigh of relief). But before the vaccine was available, we recognized this good fortune could change at any time, and my parents called their mothers every day to check on them. The necessary social distancing measures have devastated the economy, especially restaurants and theaters, and has changed all of our day-to-day routines. In other words, unlike 9/11, this pandemic has directly affected everyone.

This past holiday season too, there was a palpable sadness in the air. I was home to watch the Macey’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, but it was a scaled down parade. The usual cheering crowds were not allowed in Harold Square, and there were no marching bands. The parade was advertised as a television event, with a shortened route, and some pop singers and Broadway casts performing in Harold Square. I lost interest in it after about an hour because it just didn’t feel like the Macey’s Day Parade. There was such a longing for 2020 to be over that a lot of people put up Christmas decorations right after Halloween, and a couple local radio stations started playing Christmas music. But with no holiday party at work, no beautiful Christmas concerts to attend, or in my case, perform, and with church being held virtually, it never quite felt like Christmas. (Our church offered in-person Christmas Eve services, but at greatly reduced capacity, requiring anyone interested to RSVP. My parents and I were not comfortable with the idea of in-person services, even with the church’s safety protocols, and the Sunday before Christmas Eve, the church announced they had almost reached capacity anyway). But despite the somber nature of this past Christmas, I personally coped with it much better than the Christmas after 9/11.

When I broached the subject of this editorial with Mom, I felt compelled to apologize again for my behavior that Christmas of 2001, which I found myself feeling ashamed of again even though I had apologized and been forgiven several times over the years. In this particular conversation, Mom’s response was “you were 12. These people are adults.” She brings up a valid point. Although my behavior was wrong, I shouldn’t let myself be burdened by the guilt of it because I was 12, and selfish, immature reactions to disappointment are not all that unusual for 12-year-olds, (and actually, that Christmas I was still 11). Just by virtue of being a mature adult, I have learned to accept that disappointment is a reality of life, and have learned to accept it and roll with it (most of the time, anyway). Another factor that could have contributed to my ease coping with this nontraditional Christmas could have been that my parents and I have had quiet Christmases before. When my sister and oldest brother moved far away and couldn’t come home for Christmas, Christmas was a much more subdued affair with just my parents, the younger of my two older brothers, and me. Then this brother got a job that required him to work Christmas day, so for several Christmases, it has just been my parents and me for most of the day, until he got off work and got to our house just in time for dinner. This past Christmas, my brother couldn’t come at all, and we all agreed that my siblings who lived far away should heed the medical experts and stay home. My paternal Grandma couldn’t even come over for lunch, but to our delight, she wasn’t totally without family for Thanksgiving or Christmas because just a couple months earlier, her sister moved into the apartment across the hall from her! For this nontraditional Christmas, we decided to have a nontraditional dinner of cornish hens. Several friends who had to spend Thanksgiving alone posted pictures of cornish hens on Facebook, so my parents and I thought this would be fun and fitting for our Christmas dinner. Before sitting down to our dinner, Dad dropped off two cornish hens outside Grandma’s door for her and her sister.

The first Christmas that was just my parents and me most of the day was quite an adjustment for me after growing up in a noisy, slightly overcrowded house, an environment that drove me crazy sometimes but which I relished at Christmas, as it fit well with the exuberance our culture associates with this holiday. But I soon discovered that what the house may have lacked in child-like noise, chaos and exuberance, it made up for with a more refined, adult perspective on joy: the joy of peace, tranquility, doing things at our own pace. (To the sibling who may stumble upon this: Please don’t take what I said the wrong way. You are always welcome to come home for Christmas. What I am saying is I am content with both scenarios). With no one coming over at all, even for dinner, this sense of peace was magnified. My appreciation of this peace was also amplified by the fact that I had a nagging headache all day. There was no pressure to clean up the house, no expectations that dinner be ready at a certain time. In fact, we didn’t even feel obligated to decorate our Christmas tree.

We decided not to go to the Christmas tree farm we had been going to the past several years because Mom and Dad said while all of the trees were beautiful, the vast majority of them were getting too tall for our living room. We barely found one last year, and the one we found wasn’t as pretty in my parents’ opinion. Ironically, we had the opposite problem at the tree farm my dad found this year. I think this farm was new in the business, and most of the trees needed a couple more years to grow. Again, we barely found one, and in fact we had decided we would have to try somewhere else, but as we were walking back to our car, we found the perfect fir tree. But as Mom was stringing the lights onto the tree, she noticed most of the branches were thin and probably would not be able to support our heavier ornaments. That was fine by us though, as our most special ornaments, especially the ones my siblings and I made as children, were light. But perhaps because it didn’t feel like Christmas this year, we were just never in the mood to go through the boxes and hang them. As a last resort, Mom suggested we could hang the ornaments the evening of Christmas Eve, and pointed out that when she was growing up, the custom was to decorate the tree the evening of Christmas Eve. But after our low-key, peaceful dinner of shrimp cocktail and meatballs, we just wanted to relax and enjoy the beautiful Mormon Tabernacle Choir Christmas program on PBS, so that is what we did.

On Christmas morning, my parents and I had a leisurely breakfast of a hashbrown casserole (made with low-fat turkey sausage and no cheese) Mom had cooked the day before. Then my parents gave me a couple gifts. (I gave my parents their gift, some candles for the house from my favorite candle company Hatcreek Candle–at Thanksgiving so we could enjoy them the whole season, which we did! Then Mom and I played a game of Scrabble. While my parents prepared the cornish hens for the oven, I rested on the couch enjoying the beautiful Christmas albums Mom selected for our sterio, which included the Three Tenors. After a late lunch of our cornish hens, we enjoyed a silly but sweet movie called the Christmas Chronicles, and started watching the classic Miracle on 34th Street. About an hour into this movie, my sister called, and while on most days, interrupting a movie to take a phone call is a huge pet peeve of mine, I recognized that Christmas is a special day that merits making an exception. After a long, happy conversation with my sister and her husband, we finished the movie over an easy dinner of soup and salad. In a typical year, my parents and I would have gone to Indiana sometime during the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day to visit my maternal grandma and cousins. But this trip was not feasable given the pandemic this year, so Mom decided she might as well just get a jump start on her New Year’s goal of organizing the basement, and I did some writing but had difficulty staying focused. Similar to Christmas 2001, it almost felt as if we had skipped Christmas, but as I mentioned before, this time I didn’t feel sad or hopeless. I think the biggest reason for this, more significant than just the fact that I am an adult better able to accept and roll with disappointment than an 11-year-old, or the fact that I have progressively adjusted to and come to relish quiet Christmases, or even the fact that our family was spared the unimaginable grief so many families had to suffer, knowing that their loved ones not only died, but had to die alone, is the fact that I was able to remember Sussex Carol. I cannot confirm this quanitatively, but I feel like Family Radio, the Christian station I love to have in the background when I am studying or writing, played this song more frequently this year than last. Perhaps this was intentional, as the message, especially the second verse, was so appropriate this year. “Why should men on earth be sad, since our redeemer made us glad?” Reading my post about this carol was a surreal experience for two reasons. First, it feels as though it was written by someone else from another world, especially the beginning. Reading my post in light of all our country has been through this past year, I am a little embarrassed that the disappointment that triggered my appreciation of Sussex Carol was the difficulty adjusting to Christmas without Christmas cookies. But more importantly, when I wrote it, I was thinking in the abstract about Christmas past, and Christmas future. I never imagined how soon the whole world, especially this country, would need the message of this carol.

I am not one of those Christians who believes God caused this pandemic as judgment for our collective sin. I do believe that in this fallen world, God allows the natural consequences of unsanitary practices in a wet market (or possibly a leak from a biological research lab in Wuhan), incompetence on the part of mutiple governments, especially our own, and selfish behavior by much of the public to play out. I also believe God can use the most tragic of circumstances for good, and I think God did use this Christmas for good by helping many to put Christmas into proper perspective. The news mentioned a shortage of Christmas trees this past Christmas because so many families who usually put up an artificial tree wanted to return to a simple, old-fashioned Christmas, symbolized in a real tree. Family Radio featured a couple testimonials from people who saw the inability to have the typical frenzied Christmas with office parties and school pagants and gatherings with extended family as a blessing, a chance to slow down, recenter their lives and put Christ back into Christmas for themselves and their children. I look forward to the end of this pandemic, and the return of family gatherings and holiday concerts, hopefully by this upcoming Christmas. But I hope this past Christmas isn’t forgotten by Christians. I hope that we might translate the lessons learned into setting boundaries for Christmases future so that we are not overwhelmed by self-imposed stress on a holiday that was intended to celebrate the birth of the “prince of peace.” I hope we will remember that while family gatherings, gift exchanges, and holiday concerts are all wonderful, these are man-made traditions that have nothing to do with what Christmas is really about, so when these traditions are altered by changes in life stages, or halted by a pandemic, we should try not to let ourselves become sad. “Why should men on earth be sad, since our redeemer made us glad?” At the same time, I hope that after this past year, especially this past Christmas season, that we as a society won’t take our families, friends or involvement in communal activities for granted. Before the pandemic, I think intellectually, I recognized how blessed I was to live with my parents, to get to hug them every day, to enjoy conversation with them around the dinner table, but I couldn’t shake a tiny bit of envy for friends and family who lived independently. What would that degree of complete freedom and autonomy be like? But during this pandemic, when the medical experts said people should not gather with anyone outside their households and I witnessed these same friends and family spiral into depression and anxiety, I came to fully appreciate the truth of Genesis 2:18: “It is not good for the man to be alone.” Before the pandemic, although I loved my extended family, I confess sometimes I wished I could just video chat with them from home rather than dealing with the hassles of packing gluten free food, the loss of independence when away from home, and just the boredom and restlessness I feel as a young person sitting for hours on end just talking at the assisted living facility where my maternal grandma lives (very selfish, I know). But during the pandemic, I came to fully appreciate how poor a substitute video chatting is for in-person visits. The wifi connection can freeze or be lost completely, and there is often background interference or a weird echoe. Early in the pandemic, I tried to participate in Facetime calls with my Indiana relatives, but before long, trying to have a meaningful conversation with this imperfect technology would give me a headache. So now at most, if I happen to be in the room, Mom might point her phone camera toward me so I can say hi to Granny, but that is about it. The ability to call or have a video chat with relatives far away is a blessing that has allowed the isolation required by this pandemic to be less profound than I imagine it must have been in 1918, but this pandemic has taught me there really is no substitute for in-person communication, and once I am vaccinated, I actually look forward to going to Indiana and giving Granny and all my relatives a hug. I now feel guilty for the petty, selfish attitudes I had before the pandemic, and I pray that I will not forget this pandemic and let these attitudes take hold again.

If you are an adult reading this and you realize you behaved like an 11-year-old this past Christmas, I don’t condemn you. I think because we live in a fallen world, there is an inner selfish child that can rear its ugly head in all of us on occasion, and as mature as I may sound in this post, even with the wonderful Christian perspective I have been blessed to receive, even I still behave irrationally on occasion, such as one day last summer when the power went out and I got hangry to the point of tears because Mom and Dad wouldn’t let me open the fridge to access the soup and salad I usually have for lunch, and then despite diligently keeping the fridge closed, we had to throw everything away because the power had been out too long and my parents wouldn’t let me take any chances. After this incident, I wondered if I was a hypocrite for applying to seminary school, until a wonderful conversation via text message with one of my Jehovah’s Witness friends who comforted me by directing me to Psalm 130:3: “if you, O LORD, kept a record of sins, O LORD, who could stand?”

It has been a long, difficult year even for those of us blessed to not lose loved ones. I know what it is like to just be tired of the sadness, to the point you just wish you could bury your head in the sand for a couple days and just enjoy the usual holiday traditions that bring comfort and joy. Being a responsible adult means rolling with disappointment, doing the right thing despite longing to stick to business as usual. So had I been disinterested in religion and unaware of the joyous prospect of the restoration as I was in sixth grade, I imagine that this year, I would have done the right thing and grudgingly accepted the disappointment of a quiet Christmas. But to be honest, I doubt that chronological maturity alone would have made much difference in my emotional state. At some point, I can almost guarantee I would have had to run to my room sobbing, whether it was while listening to the worship leaders sing Silent Night through the computer screen when in a typical year, I would have been singing this carol surrounded by people and the pleasant warmth and aroma of candle smoke, or even earlier in the season when there were no holiday concerts to get me into the Christmas spirit. But with my Christian hope, reenforced whenever I heard Sussex Carol, I remembered that we live in a broken world, and that does not change just because our man-made calendars say it’s Christmas. I remembered how our culture places so much hope and expectation on Christmas, but this is only misplaced longing for the restoration. And most importantly, I remember that if we have faith in our redeemer, which is really what Christmas is supposed to be about, we can take comfort in the fact that we won’t have to live in a broken world forever. We can eagerly anticipate a time when in a spiritual sense, Elvis Presley’s wish will come true, and every day will be just like Christmas. What a wonderful world that will be!

Published by Allison Nastoff

As I write this in 2020, I am 30 years old. I am blind, and Gilbert was my first guide dog. He passed away on December 2, 2020, but I decided to keep the title for my blog as a tribute to him because he will always hold a special place in my heart. In 2012, I earned a Bachelor of Science in Communication with a journalism emphasis, and went back to school for a Paralegal certificate in 2014. I worked for five years at a Social Security disability firm. When the pandemic hit, I did some reflecting and decided to resign from this job and take seminary courses. My dream is a career as a teacher or writer where I can be a blessing to others.

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