Well, here we are. Quarantine/Stay-At-Home/Social Distancing has been in effect for approximately 80,000 months now, and we've finally reached the long-awaited Corona Christmas.
While a few restrictions have been lifted and certain holiday traditions can still be enjoyed, many of us are missing out on things we usually look forward to during this season: In-person Christmas tree lightings, live seasonal entertainment, gatherings with 30 of your closest hometown friends that you never talk to except for this time of year so you all awkwardly crowd the bar the whole time... wait, sorry. Got a little off track there, that's something I definitely am not missing.
As a church musician, Christmas is usually the Super Bowl of church events. The church is flooded with what one of the choristers in our youth choir once referred to as CEOs: people who attend on Christmas and Easter Only. It starts right after Thanksgiving and lasts until the Sunday after Christmas Day. There are Christmas Pageants, Advent Brunches, craft fairs, you name it. We musicians sing two or more services every Sunday and hold extra rehearsals to handle at least quadruple the amount of music as during the rest of the year- and that's not even the Main Event. For the last five or six years, I have sung three services throughout Christmas Eve, running home to cook and enjoy what I try to make a nice meal with family and friends, only to return back to church until well after midnight. The next morning, I quickly, blearily glance at the tree before running out the door to be back at church by 9 am. By the time I get home, I have just enough energy to open my presents before I crash and fall asleep.
Now, this is not to say that I dislike the frenzy of Christmas at church. I cherish the memories I have made with the group of musicians I work with. We're basically Jesus Elves, working around the clock to make Christmas happen. Also, we can't discount that this is my job, and the money I make from all this extra work is... nice. Necessary.
However, this is the era of COVID. In many communities, Christmas at church just isn't happening this year. Some churches are open with limited seating available, but mine just flat out isn't open. Instead of staging the Christmas pageant around the beautiful wooden creche
at the center of the altar, I have spent the last month screaming at my children's choir of angels to sing into the camera so that their Zoom background doesn't cut into their face and make them look like deformed gremlin angels (I'm not trying to yell at them. Has anyone else found that teaching over Zoom makes you scream five times louder than usual?) Instead of singing Adam Lay ybounden and I Wonder as I Wander to a congregation lit by beautiful candle light and twinkling winter skies, I recorded them in August, sweating profusely through my choir robe and trying to cover up my chipped hot-pink summer manicure. Instead of dressing up and heading to church on Christmas Eve, wearing a dress I bought exactly for that purpose that no one will see because it's underneath the aforementioned bright blue smock, I will be sitting on the couch and watching church on my tv in sweatpants.
Church musicians have done a lot to make this Christmas season happen, in whatever way it's going to. It's been weird, I can't lie. I also can't lie about the fact that I am looking forward to having a break at Christmas like every other normal person on the planet for the first time since I was 20. I will be missing the magical combination of excitement, exhaustion, and delirium that usually accompanies this season, but the memories I've made from this year will rank just as high as the others. Particularly the one with the most inspired virtual reading of "Gloria!" that you've ever heard, performed by a six year old. It was like he was speaking directly from God, really.
From my couch to yours, Merry Christmas and a (Different) New Year!
Here we are last year, so young and so tired.