We finally made it to December of 2020. Many people I know have said, for several months, that they want 2020 to be over, and it will be very soon.

It’s been a difficult year for people worldwide. The coronavirus has taken the lives of many of our friends, loved ones and community members. Travel has been restricted, along with dining, graduations, sporting events and more. Some families have chosen not to celebrate holidays in the traditional ways and have selected to have quiet, intimate settings with a few of their immediate family.

The holiday season is usually a very busy time. Normally, many of us feel overwhelmed in December. We are so busy decorating for Christmas, shopping for the perfect gifts, attending numerous school plays and concerts, attending church Christmas events, going to dinners, and parties for our organizations, it seems we never have enough time to get it all accomplished.

By the time Christmas actually arrives, we breathe a sigh of relief at the end, wondering how we got it all done. Often, we look back and realize we missed a lot of the fun trying to get ready to have fun.

We all appreciate the invitations and events with our friends and the multiple organizations of which we are each a part. However, sometimes we may just want a break.

This year has given us that much-needed break and provided us all with a great opportunity. For the first time in many years, we have an opportunity to slow down this holiday season. We have been given a chance to focus on the things that really matter most.

As my family was visiting with our ecclesiastical leader this past week, we were asked how we were doing and how we did during 2020 and all of its challenges. My wife gave an insightful answer and said she felt blessed because of the challenges we have faced.

Being a social person who craves being around others, I glanced over with what I was sure a quizzical expression. As she explained, I totally understood and agreed. She said this past year, she has gotten to spend more time with us than she ever has because she commutes out of state for her job. Because of the situation 2020 has brought us, we have gotten to spend more time together. When we had to travel, we brought along our youngest daughter, who will be leaving for college next year.

This past year brought stress to millions of people regarding jobs, staying healthy, keeping our kids in school, and attending different events and activities. Our fun has slowed down or stopped. Suicide and domestic violence have skyrocketed. We endured yet another bitter political season with arguments still ongoing. Millions of Americans have been legitimately frightened because of COVID, the upcoming change in our political leaders, where our country and our communities are headed, and many have worried about basic survival.

With vaccines arriving in the coming weeks, I sincerely hope our country and our world can soon return to a more normal status. However, in the meantime, take advantage of this holiday season, whatever your faith and whatever your denomination. Focus on what Christmas and the winter holidays are really about: the birth of Christ, recognizing the works of deity, the winter celebrations – and extending a smile and a helping hand to someone around you.

Most importantly, slow down, take a look at your own situation, be thankful for what you have, and stay close to family and loved ones. That’s what Christmas is really all about.

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