A Covid Christmas/Epiphany
Note: Every once in a while, the pastor at my church goes on vacation. (Everyone needs one). Today (Sunday, January 3, 2021) was one of those days. She asked me to fill in so here is what I had to say:
1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
1:2 He was in the beginning with God. 1:3 All
things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into
being. What has come into being 1:4 in him was life, and the life was the light
of all people. 1:5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not
overcome it. 1:6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 1:7 He
came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through
him. 1:8 He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. 1:9
The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.1:10 He
was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did
not know him.
1:11 He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. 1:12 But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 1:13 who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. 1:14 And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father's only son, full of grace and truth.
1:15 (John testified to him and cried out, "This was he of whom I said, 'He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.'") 1:16 From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.
Let us pray: When Jesus is born to Mary and Joseph, God is there. When they present Jesus at the temple, God is there. When Simeon holds Jesus in his arms, God is there. When Anna recognizes Jesus as the answer to prayer, God is there. This very morning, God is here. In the future we cannot see, God is there. Amen
Here we are in a new year, 2021. Can I get a sigh of relief or maybe a Hallelujah? I think we are all glad to see 2020 behind us. However, even though we are in a new calendar year, we are still in the midst of Christmas.
We often get so caught up in the season of Advent and preparations for the birth of Christ that we forget that Christmastide is a short season unto itself; running from December 25 to January 5th and ends on January 6th; Epiphany; when the Wise Men arrive, bow before the child and present him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. So during this time, right now, it is right and perhaps even necessary to continue to wish each other a Merry Christmas.
Merry Christmas and my gift to you today is a SHORT mediation. It may not come in a gift wrapped box and you can’t return it, but I hope you will like it.
Let’s start with Christmas. Christmas is not just a day. It’s the beginning. It’s the beginning of something new. It’s the beginning of a new, rather long journey; one that is not easy, but it worth the taking.
I’d like to draw a parallel to Christmas and our current situation with Covid-19. We’ve been patient, or at least we’ve tried to be. We rejoice that there are approved vaccines now; with hopefully more to come. But just having a vaccine doesn’t mean the pandemic is over. It’s not just “boom” here’s a vaccine and now the world goes back to the way it used to be. Worldwide vaccinations are slowly and methodically being given and we are carefully and consciously working our way to a new life. It’s a multi-step process…it’s a journey.
So it is with Christmas too. It’s not just “boom” a baby is born and the world is saved. Christmas marks the beginning of something wonderful. Just as we now are slowly and methodically vaccinating people, so did the wise men slowly travel to make their way to Bethlehem to see the baby. Perhaps they wanted to rush to see this baby, but there was no quick way; it would have been a long trek. As it says in Matthew: “After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2and asked, “Where is the one who has been born King of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.”
3When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. 5”In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:
6’But you, Bethlehem, in the land of
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
who will be the shepherd of my people Israel’.”
7Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you have found him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”
9After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped Him. Then they opened their treasures and presented Him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.”
All of this took time, just as our journey to a vaccine has been. It took hard work to get us to where we are now.
But the hard work was and is worth it. Just as Joseph and Mary made their way to Bethlehem, the shepherds journeyed to see the baby, so did the Wise men. Think of how difficult this must have been for all of these people. Think of the challenges and obstacles they had to face. However, it was something they all needed to do; a road they needed to go down. They needed to leave the “known” and move towards the unknown. To make this hard difficult journey to witness the baby; the one who would become our Savior.
We too have been on a long road with difficult months of hardship and darkness. But, as with the birth of the baby, which we celebrate this Christmas time, we know that we need to go through the darkness to get to the light. It, like the road, does not suddenly flash upon us; even though we might wish it would. Going from the shortest and darkest days of the year to the longer and brighter days takes time. Now more than ever it is important to hear the words from this morning’s scripture lesson: What has come into being 1:4 in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 1:5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it
The darkness has NOT overcome us. We have not allowed it to do so. As we faced new challenges throughout the last year year, we have always focused on the light. Even though it has been dark. It has been arduous. It has been painful. But just as difficult as these months have been, the darkness has NOT overcome us. We knew that there would be light. We did not know when that light might come, but we knew there would be light. Now, at last we are seeing the light. We see the hope and joy that will come with the end of this pandemic.
As we move towards the light, we realize that vaccination does not bring about an immediate end to this pandemic. We must continue to be cautious and respectful of all. The passage from Matthew about the Wise Men concludes: “ And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.” In doing so they protected the light. We too must continue to protect the light. We need to act as Christ taught us, loving our neighbors as ourselves and keeping ourselves and our neighbors safe. In some ways we are like John, we testify to the light, but we are not the light. We come to testify to Jesus, the true light of the world. The light that has brightened our lives during these dark times. And by following his teachings, loving each other as he loved us, we come through this pandemic as stronger and even more spiritual people. We can stand as proof that “From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”
As we conclude the season of Christmas, let us act in that grace and truth, knowing that these actions bring us to a safer and healthier world, and make us the Christians that Christ would have us be.
Thanks be to God. Amen.