By Naomi Rossow
This time last year, I was in Detroit on Wayne’s campus with my friends gearing up to take my first round of college finals. My friends and I danced together, cried together, laughed together, stressed together, adventured together, ranted together, studied together. I was not alone.
This year looks a lot different. I am at home in Brighton, not Detroit. I am gearing up for my first round of college finals through Zoom. My friends and I cannot dance together. Crying and laughing with friends looks a lot smaller through the screen of my phone. I am able to study on campus … wearing a mask and sitting six feet away from my friends. And yet, I am still not alone.
A group of my friends is doing a virtual Secret Santa. We used this very helpful website, elfster.com, that partnered us anonymously and sent out emails to each person so you only know who you got. We have plans to join a call together and open the gifts we sent through the mail. I am excited to see my friend’s face when she opens the gift I got her.
It may not be the traditional way to do Secret Santa, but it definitely works. And a Zoom Secret Santa gives us a way to celebrate together while being safe.
I realized that there are many things this Advent and Christmas season that are going to be different: lots of people we won’t get to see and smiles we will receive from a video call rather than a group get-together. There are plenty of things to be disappointed about.
And, I am. But I also realized that the reason we celebrate this time of year is the same. Advent hasn’t stopped being the joyful anticipation of Jesus’ birth just because we can’t go to Wednesday night church in person. Christmas is still the miracle of Jesus, born to save you and me.
The birth of Jesus fulfills the promise of Immanuel, God With Us. So, even in a pandemic, even when we can’t see our extended family, even when we can’t go ice skating with our friends, even when it looks different than the years past, God is with us. Jesus will be there with me watching the smiles through the screen of my computer during my virtual Secret Santa.
So this year, as I virtually celebrate with my friends, I also joyfully anticipate the miraculous birth of Jesus just, as in years past: the One born to be God With Us, no matter what.
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).