The COVID-19 pandemic has been hard on us in so many ways, and one of those has been the restrictions we had to set up to keep each other safe. We had to care for one another by staying apart. And this Christmas will be especially difficult because we will still need to stay apart in order to protect the most vulnerable people in our communities—the newborn babies and the elderly, the health care workers and others whose essential work requires them to interact with the public, Indigenous communities and those who live in poverty, overcrowded homes, on the streets or in shelters.
Remember what Jesus taught his disciples about the end of things? That when the Son of Man comes in his glory, he will say to his people:
Come…inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me…
Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me (Matthew 25:34b–36, 40b).
This Christmas, I want to remember that we know how to do all those things. We know how to be the villages that welcome and nurture the new babies. We know how to care for the sick and suffering and hungry. We know how to surround those who are grieving with love and prayer. These are the things that we are made to do for one another, and as much as the pandemic has made things so much more difficult, it has not stopped us. We’ve had to be more creative, more courageous, and more determined. But as much as we have stayed apart, we have not isolated ourselves into independent households that no longer care about our neighbours and communities.
Although the vaccines are beginning to roll out this week, we know that it will be a long time before enough people have received them for things to start to get back to normal. So, wherever you are this Christmas…whether you are alone, or perhaps together with your little family…think about the possibility that when God came to live among us as a newborn, vulnerable child, we knew how to welcome and protect him. Imagine yourself among the extended family that night, rejoicing with the young couple and sharing in the nurture and protection of the child.
And be absolutely sure that God continues to live among us even now in the form of those who are lonely and isolated, those who are sick and suffering, those who are grieving terrible losses, those in long-term care or in prisons, and those who are putting themselves at risk as they continue to serve others.
May God bless you this Christmas with hope and with peace, and may God give you all that you need to share in welcoming Jesus.
1 Joel B. Green et al, eds., Connections: A Lectionary Commentary for Preaching and Worship, (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2020), p. 80.