Our hearts have gone out to the family and friends of Cliff Black, and to others who have battled this virus sometimes with much difficulty and sometimes without much issue at all. It seems a random thing that this virus hits some with such devastating force and others with almost no symptoms. A few of our own faithful are right now battling for their lives—one has been in the ICU for weeks and another remains at home with the roller coaster of cough, nausea, fatigue, fever, and phone consults with doctors.
Wednesday, December 9th, we had more Covid-19 deaths in the USA than any other day thus far—3,055—surpassing the overwhelming fatalities of 9/11/01. Our dilemma is that day after day, the losses keep coming, at least until we get a better handle on preventing the spread of the disease and have access to some revolutionary medications. We will still see other days with thousands lost to Covid-19 for the foreseeable future, but there will be a day in the not so distant future when we will experience relief. A vaccine and the availability of effective treatments are just around the corner. This time next year, we may very well be able to celebrate better days with family and friends. For now, during this time when so many are sick, we wait.
When we think about Jesus coming into the world, when we make our preparations to receive him year after year, we’re usually thinking about a picture-perfect world with quaint little villages and trees strung up with lights. We’re thinking about gatherings of people celebrating together, crowded churches, reunions, and grand traditions. When our expectations aren’t met, we can feel cheated out of that “true experience” of Christmas. What we fail to realize, I think, is that Jesus did not come into a picture-perfect world. He came into a world with diseases and death, with hardships and losses, with outcasts and failures. He came into THIS world, this broken, lost, desperate world. And he lived proclaiming the message that the world’s values are not God’s values, after all. Jesus’ ministry changed hearts and changed lives. He didn’t start with a perfect world and the perfect world God will bring isn’t here yet. But within this imperfect world, Jesus brought the very best news: God’s love isn’t dependent on our circumstances. Jesus will come into any muck or misery to reclaim us and make us his own.
Even when we despair, we find God at work doing what we thought was impossible. Don’t give up hope, friends. Into this kind of world, this very world, Jesus has come. Christmas, maybe this year more than any other, will have to be focused on the Good News that Emmanuel, God with Us, will cross any boundary, enter any and every situation, seek out any lost or frightened or prideful soul, and be that Love that will not let us go.