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The biblical Christmas story, the one that announces the birth of Jesus, seems so sweet it can appear almost saccharine. It is so often told as a children’s story and a sentimental one at that. Yet it is deeply political and has been from the beginning.

Editor Brian Kaylor says it won’t really feel like Christmas this year. And we shouldn’t pretend everything’s alright. It’s okay to lament. It’s okay to express our disappointment. It’s okay to miss what we can’t have and do this year. Because that’s part of the Christmas story, too.

With Joe Biden replacing Donald Trump as president, and with vaccines eventually expected to ease the threat of COVID-19, the challenges for faith leaders in 2021 will shift. Here’s a look at some important storylines to keep an eye on in the coming year for religion in the country.

The Supreme Court has yet to set clear parameters about how religious holidays can be celebrated in public schools and whether granting access to all faith traditions is either constitutionally necessary or acceptable.

Coronavirus has canceled many Christmas pageants, but some churches turned to a new virtual format for the old classic. And with kids and the internet involved, virtual pageants, it turns out, are just as delightfully unpredictable as more traditional performances at churches.

Astronomers have floated the idea that a conjunction of planets could be a scientific explanation for the star of Bethlehem in the Christmas story. One such conjunction will occur on Dec. 21.

In one of the most conservative cities in North Carolina, a United Methodist pastor gingerly approaches racial issues without alienating his flock. Being a Black pastor in a predominantly White church in the age of Trump has been a challenge.

A holiday tradition since the 1930s, Singing Christmas Trees draw in thousands of visitors who might never otherwise come to church and bring joy and a sense of community to cast and congregation members alike. But this year, COVID restrictions make such events nearly impossible to pull off.

Against the backdrop of a pandemic’s blight and wounds from an acrimonious election, a group of acclaimed actors on Sunday will stage an online reading of a religious text with remarkable relevance to the current moment: the Book of Job.

Live Nativities, in which visitors drive — and sometimes, especially in warmer climes, walk — through a number of scenes retelling the biblical story of Jesus’s birth, have been popular around the U.S. for years. And it’s an idea whose time has come as the pandemic stretches into the Christmas season.