Are you dreaming of a COVID-free Christmas? Aren’t we all?
This Christmas reminds us of the one disrupted by World War II. Thousands of American lives were being claimed by a foreign enemy. Thousands languishing in muddy trenches or sweltering in the jungles of Guadalcanal or later in Vietnam were only dreaming of being home for Christmas. Bing Crosby sang for them, “I’ll be home for Christmas. . .if only in my dreams.”
A different but equally deadly enemy, the coronavirus, is killing many thousands in our own country. Not a day goes by without hearing that family, friends, or neighbors have become its victim. One friend said, “It’s so close to us now that we live in anticipation of not if we will get it, but when.” We personally feel as if the coronavirus is stalking and encircling us like a pack of ravenous wolves, getting closer and closer.
The pandemic has stripped away many of the beloved social traditions that have accumulated over the centuries around the Birthday of Christ. Many people are separated from families, friends, joyful Christmas parties, lavish Christmas concerts, and festive worship services. Others have little or no money to spend on gifts. Putting food on the table or keeping a roof over their heads is a struggle for many. The virus has attacked not only our lives, but also our livelihoods.
All that sounds very much like the difficult and dangerous circumstances of Mary and Joseph when Jesus was born far away from family. There was no spare room in anybody’s house for Mary to give birth after a long tiring journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem. And soon King Herod would send his henchmen to kill Jesus because he was perceived as a rival king. The holy family had to flee to Egypt.
But what is Christmas, anyhow? Maybe celebrating the birth of Jesus and why He came – alone in solitude or languishing in a hospital bed – will drive us to the deepest and most satisfying meaning of Christmas. Don’t let the tinsel hide the treasure of Christmas.
How did the angels define Christmas when they announced Jesus’ birth? An angel of the Lord appeared to lowly shepherds, who were terrified. But the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid,” he said, “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David” (Luke 2:9-11). Suddenly an angelic choir broke out in song, praising God: “Glory to God in highest Heaven, and peace on Earth to those with whom God is pleased” (Luke 2:13-14).
Heaven touched Earth that day. God came to reassure anyone who is terrified for any reason: “You don’t have to be afraid anymore. My Christmas Gift to you is My Son, Jesus, to save you from your own sins, death, and the power of the Devil over you. Here’s My Promise: Put your trust in Me, seek My will, and I will use whatever happens to you for some good. Whatever you lose, I will replace with something better. Whatever is bad in your life will be temporary. Whatever is good will become permanent.”
Do you owe mortgage payments or rent, utility or medical bills you cannot pay? The Good News is that you don’t owe anything for your failures and moral debts to God. Jesus has already paid for every last one. That’s why He came. Just humbly admit your need for His mercy, and accept His gift of pardon and grace.
While you’re at it, ask for His protection and provision. Jesus said, “Don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God (His will) above all else, seek to live righteously, and He will give you everything you need” (Matthew 6:31-33).
And if you count your blessings and find that they are many, share them generously with others. God likes to answer prayers through us!
World Wars and global pandemics cannot destroy what makes Christmas truly merry!
~ Ed & Emily Kast
Ed & Emily have been married over 50 years and live in Michigan, where Ed served as the senior pastor of a large church and school. Emily taught in elementary and preschools and trains leaders of small group Bible studies. They have a daughter who is a college math professor, a son who is a physical therapist, and two grandchildren. For many decades they have served as a clergy presenting couple for Lutheran Marriage Encounter. They never stop learning about marriage and how to experience a life blessed by God. They are more in love with each other than ever. Happily ever after is achievable!