The First Covid Christmas

by Alvan Lewis

We complain. We wear masks. We keep our distance. Every person we pass is a potential carrier. We can’t have a packed Church on Christmas Eve. We can’t attend any Christmas Concerts. We can’t have any large family dinners. We are forced to do most of our shopping online. Tis’ the season to be jolly! Welcome to our first Covid Christmas.

And that is the way it will be for those of us who are lucky. We have friends and family who have lost their jobs, their business, and their health. It is hard to get into the Christmas spirit.

What are we to do? Perhaps we need to step back and take a long look at the very first Christmas. See how the first Christmas compares with our first Covid Christmas.

As far as I know no one in Canada will give birth to their child in a barn. No one will dash across the US border because the Canadian head of state wants to kill their newborn. No one that I know of will have to spend Christmas away from home because the Government demands that they file their taxes in another city.

These are hard times but not as hard as Mary and Joseph went through to bring us the First Christmas. So, I would suggest we take a deep breath, look back the long years to the first Christmas and be thankful for the many good things we have in 2020.

Advent 2020

Years ago I had an opportunity to accompany a number of clergy to Holland, then on to Sweden.   It was early December and the cold of Holland and Sweden reminded me of Canada.   Like Canada, darkness falls early in the late afternoon.   There seemed to be some excitement around this early way to early darkness.   The excitement in most homes was a candle, welcomed on almost every window sill, turning darkness into light.  The close proximity of homes and the tiny yards made the houses even closer, like the sidewalks we were walking on.   It was a rare feast for the eyes! Excitement about windows framed in light had become a tradition for generations.  While tradition isn’t in itself a bad thing, it can lead us to accepted norms like taking communion week after week; like speaking out loud the creeds of our faith month after month.  Like putting a candle or light in the window at Christmas without calling to remembrance its meaning and significance. 

Advent in the Liturgical calendar is celebrated on the four Sundays before Christmas.  In Latin, Advent means coming. To prepare for this coming, we remember it by the sign of light – candles – lights on a tree – lights on buildings and houses. It is one of the traditions of the festive season!  Potentially forgotten in our distant memories is that the entire world is incased in the darkness of sin.  I know sin isn’t the topic of Christmas. Peace, joy, faith and love are. But, we must remember sin to understand the full weight of Advent.  God, the herald of his Son through the prophets of old, mentions the coming of redemption numerous times.   This coming of the Messiah was the promise of our redemption.  We must never live too far away from the theology of redemption; it keeps our theological boots on the ground!  Paul expresses it better than anyone in the New Testament:

“For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sin” (Col.1:13-14).

This is the proclamation of advent – we have been rescued from the tyranny of sin, which is, metaphorically, darkness.   Light is the enemy of darkness. Light isn’t preached as a passive substance, but that of something that overcomes darkness by the mighty act of redemption.   So bring out those candles and lights and celebrate the fullness of God found in his beloved Son!

Peace in Christ,

Terry

Do Not Be Anxious

Don’t be anxious Paul commands – about anything – but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

It would be good to remind ourselves of this timeless truth that anxiety can be overcome through conversation with God!   Paul, the battle scarred apostle, writes these words from a prison awaiting trail – looking into a very uncertain future.  Just like the days we belong to at present!   Uncertainty seems to be the anthem of our day.  Uncertain economics is all over the media, driving even the bravest of hearts into the closet of fear.  Will there be a vaccination for covid in the near future?   What about my children and grandchildren at school?  All these question are valid but cause that slight twinge of anxiety to rise in our being.

Amazon has done some research only to find that this passage out of Philippians has been the most highlighted piece of literature on Kindle ebooks in a while.   Funny thing is, you have to believe in prayer to apply the first part of the passage, not hold the book to your forehead hoping it rubs off.   Prayer is first of all dialogue, it can be loud – silent – commanding – poetic.  James Houston, the founder of Regent College, writes a fine book called Friendship with God and encourages us to chat with God like a friend who sits in our time and space, who is concerned with our concerns.

I have made it a practice every night to recite the Gladsome Light out of the BCP  “O gladsome light, pure brightness of the ever-living Father in heaven,

O Jesus Christ, holy and blessed!

Now as we come to the setting of the sun,

and our eyes behold the vesper light,

we sing praises to God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

You are worthy at all times to be praised by happy voices,

O Son of God, O Giver of Life, and to be glorified through all the worlds.”

Two weeks ago, at a Baptist church planting conference, I read this after the evening session.  A brave soul asked “Can you read that again”?!   To be followed by someone asking what is vesper light?   Good question – it is the only light found at the setting of the sun – when the sun holds it breathe, dips beneath the horizon and is gone.  That is vesper light.   It serves as a reminder that every life lived, will hold it’s breathe for the last time and be raised anew with Christ!  Thus the encouragement to praise with happy voices.   Praise and worship is the great guardian of the heart. Paul knew this as he encouraged us to pray with thanksgiving!  He knew it would guard our faint hearts as we look into an uncertain futures.  Paul writes it in one place, it happens to be in the book of Philippians, but how many times did he practice it?  Countless times I am sure!  My prayer is that our anxious hearts may hear God’s invitation to true dialogue!

Peace be with you,

Terry