As Christmas gets closer, I think back to the last several years. Christmas, 2019, my first one as your pastor, we were already hearing a bit about a strange new virus affecting people who had travelled to China. By Christmas, 2020, we were nine months into a global pandemic shut-down and our celebrations were all online-only, although a vaccine was beginning to be rolled out. For Christmas, 2021, we were able to gather in person, but the Omicron variant briefly shut us down again just a week later. This year, COVID is still with us, although it doesn’t seem to be as deadly as it once was; still, combined with Flu and RSV, our hospitals are seeing a dramatic increase in serious and life-threatening illness this season.
How do we celebrate Christmas in the midst of pandemics? How do we embrace Hope when the world so often seems hopeless? How do we turn toward Light when there is still so much darkness? The reality of the miracle of Christmas we celebrate is that, even though the Light was born, it was born into darkness; even though Hope came into our world, it entered into a world that seemed hopeless. The day after Jesus was born, Joseph and Mary were still sleeping in a barn with the animals, Herod was still a vicious and murderous King, Caesar was still Emperor of the Roman Empire. Nothing had really changed. And yet, everything had changed! God had come into the world as one of us, to dwell with us, to bring light and hope and joy into our world, even in the face of darkness and despair and violence.
This is the miracle of Christmas. Let’s gather together while we can – and celebrate that everything has changed!