Pastoral Commentary: We are now the nativity
If there is one word that describes our world today, I believe that word might be uncertainty. At least it seems that way. The pandemic has clearly brought this home to us in terrible ways. There are few if any who remember first-hand the flu pandemic at the end of WWI. The world, and particularly the United States, is not used to medical crises of this magnitude here. They pop up occasionally in places such as Africa and the Far East, but not here. We are too advanced to allow things such as this to happen here. We have the best of modern medicine. We have virtually eradicated things such as small pox, polio, typhoid fever and measles. Or so we think. So when something such as COVID shows up, we aren’t certain how to react.
I am old enough to remember the invention of the Salk vaccine for polio. That was, rightly, an extremely fearful disease when I was young. One of my classmates caught it and missed an entire year of school. When the vaccine was being tested they asked the schools to get as many kids as possible to sign up. They would be given either the vaccine or a placebo. My parents signed up both my brother and me. They felt it was important to support the testing going on, and they also believed it was safe. They were right on both counts.
In these uncertain times, we can be certain of one thing – God is in control. But God isn’t going to wave a magic wand to get rid of COVID. God has given us brains to use in combatting this virus. Researchers have found a vaccine that is safe and effective. In the meantime, until it becomes widely available, we can do our part by wearing masks, washing our hands and social distancing. That is a small price to pay to keep not only ourselves safe but also all those around us.
We must also look out for those around us who are struggling financially, emotionally or spiritually with issues caused by this virus. We can be there for those who have lost loved ones. We can be the hands and heart of Jesus to those people to whom he would have us minister in his name. This has been an especially important thing to remember this year.
There have been thousands of stories this past year of strangers helping strangers, people making a point of connecting with others, businesses staying open just so their employees can keep their jobs and feed their families.
We have just gone through our first and hopefully last Christmas in a pandemic. The babe in the manger, the angels singing to the shepherds, the nostalgia of past Christmases still fill us with hope.
Life today isn’t that all much different from the time of that first Christmas, probably less dangerous but more complicated. Only now, the manger is closed and the angels have moved on. The manger is closed because now we are here, the church is here. There may not have been room in the inn for Jesus to be born, but there is room in our hearts and in our churches for Jesus to be born and so the manger is closed. And the angels, those called to bring the good news to the shepherds have moved on. No one else would go to the shepherds that night, they were considered dishonest, dirty, disreputable, the sort with whom no good religious person would want to be seen. So God sent the angels to bring them the good news, news the shepherds received first, before all those so-called good religious people. In God’s world the first shall be last and the last first.
Now it is up to us to announce the good news to those whom the world looks down upon. We have taken up the role held by the angels, seeing the world through God’s eyes and loving those whom God loves no matter what the world says about them. And so the angels have moved on.
As we look forward to a COVID-less future, remember the lessons we should have learned this year. There are those all around us who need hope, who need good news, who need help. Jesus can bring all of this, but he can always use some help from a few angels.
We have seen a lot of unexpected angels show up this year, helping in so many ways. So remember, the manger is closed and the other angels have moved on. It’s time for the churches be that manger where Jesus can be born into our hearts and where angels can go out into a hurting world with the best news ever told, Emmanuel, God is with us.