As we move into Advent, we face updated restrictions due to the rising Covid numbers. Perhaps the stress and separation we feel in this Covid year might pull us back towards the story of Christ coming into the world. Before the crowds swarm Christ seeking and finding acceptance, love, hope, healing and justice, God’s Incarnation unfolds in an almost lonely manner. A solitary priest offering the daily sacrifice in the temple sees a vision of hope. Afterwards, Zecheriah will not speak for nine months.Mary, a teenage young woman, will ponder the strangeness of the angels’ words alone. Joseph will find direction in the solitary realm of dreams. Mary will deliver her baby in a stable away from the comfort of family and friends. Essential workers will leave their flocks to offer lullabies to the Christ Child. Two single senior adults will prophesy when a week old Jesus is dedicated in the Temple.There is no feasting or friends coming to call, and yet God breaks into the world. Mary treasures all of this hope in the solitude of her heart.
We all long to gather together in thanksgiving and then celebrate with candles and singing the birth of our Lord. We, like the parents of a child finally coming home, long to run to each other, hugging, kissing, and feasting together with dancing and music! (The Prodigal Child, Luke 15) And yet God speaks to us through the voices of the medical and scientific community telling us to keep wandering about in this Covid wilderness for a while longer. But hear the Good News: God is with us in seasons of plenty, joy, and community, and in these stretches of isolation, struggle and separation. Indeed, the manger and the cross both remind us that Christ is Immanuel (God with us) declaring God presence no matter who is or is not physically close by. Let us dare to believe the Good News and open our hearts again to Christ’s coming. Let us risk new ways to worship and celebrate together although physically apart.
I have never been prouder of our clergy, church staff, and lay leaders who have so tirelessly provided new ways of worshipping and connecting together. We all long for the day when we might regather in some in-person worship, but again the numbers call us to love our neighbors by worshipping at home. You can learn about upcoming Advent events through which we hope you might connect to God and each other at https://www.belmontumc.org. May the God of all comfort encourage and strengthen us as we make this hard journey together.
Love and Prayers