Day whatever of the Covid-19 crisis, and all is…well, not well, just really crazy! Cancellations abound, new restrictions may come into play shortly, and it’s still hard to find toilet paper in the stores. And hand sanitizer? Forget it!
Now, before anything else – take this seriously! This is not the flu, this is not a hoax, and it is not a story inflated by panic or irrational thinking. It’s real, and it’s life-threatening.
But it’s also confusing…fearful…and overwhelming.
So, what I am thinking these days? I’m thinking Christmas!
Now, I know what some of you are thinking. You are recalling that several weeks ago I fell and hit my head, and finally it’s knocked a screw (or two) loose. But seriously, hear me out. This is about Christmas.
A couple of days ago my daughter (who has very wide tastes in music), was listening to some Christmas music. It made me ponder a bit. I know it seems a lifetime ago, but remember Christmas? No, not the warm, fuzzy time around the beautifully lit tree, with gifts below, bathed in soft, warm candlelight. The other Christmas – the real Christmas – the Christmas in a cold, damp stable, with a vulnerable infant lying in a dirty manger.
Now that’s Christmas!
Christmas, as much as we love the season, with its music, lights, and eggnog, isn’t about warm feelings, family gatherings, and an end of the year boost. It’s really about an extraordinary act – the act of God to join us in our journey. In the gift of Christmas God chooses to become human, to walk in our world, to join in our struggles, and to be with us, right here in our midst.
But then, to do more. To take our failures, vulnerabilities, weakness, sinfulness, and even the power of death from us. To place all that on the crucified Jesus. And then, to place in us new life and new hope. Even in the darkest of times. Like right now. All that starts at Christmas.
The key is that God is willing, able, even yearning to walk with us, by our side, and join us in a world that is frequently cold, unforgiving, even lifeless. And that means that contrary to our usual view, God is not somewhere out there, beyond the clouds, off in some fanciful place we call heaven. Instead, God has left all that behind, to come and join us in our journey, and to be vulnerable as we are vulnerable. Most of all, God’s presence isn’t just a brief encounter. God is in it for the long haul, with us for the duration. Like right now.
Of course, that starts with Jesus. Jesus, the child in the manger, is the presence of God in our world. In Jesus, the one who shares in our vulnerability as he hangs on the cross, God join us in times of good and wonder, in times of pain and sorrow. In Jesus God isn’t just “talking the talk,” God is “walking the walk.”
And so, we are not alone. As Covid-19 changes our world, turning it all around, leading to fear, confusion, and even a bit of despair, we are not by ourselves. Even though it sometimes feels that way. God is here, right here, even now!
That is really good news, news that our hurting world really needs to hear. We are concerned, we have a sense of urgency, and we have a lot of “un-ease.” But we also have something to share – we have an assurance that, remember…we are not alone! And the Jesus who walks with us, walks all the way to the cross, giving us new life and new strength. In that confidence, we discover a new and bold courage to live faithfully, even in the face of Covid-19.
But wait, we’re not done yet! Living faithfully means living out our calling as disciples of Jesus, making a difference in our frightened world. And as we make a difference, we become…are you ready for this…we become the presence of Christ to others. Or, to put it another way, we become the way in which God chooses not to remain way up, beyond the clouds, but instead to be here, right here, with people in need. Or, as our church body proclaims, “God’s work, our hands!”
Really, it’s happening. As dark and dreary as things seem to be, God is at work. I’m saw it, earlier today. There were people in the building, some of whom I knew, and some who I didn’t know. They were gathering food together to share with others. With the word that school is now suspended indefinitely, people are working together to make sure all are fed. The plan is to repeat today’s food distribution to school families twice a week, and that in addition to the wonderful work the Food Pantry does. You can join that work – check out our “Covid-19 Response” page (click on the link on our home page at www.oursaviorswestsalem.org), or find “Feed Our Children – West Salem” on Facebook.
But back to the people in the building…in those folk, some known to me and some unknown, I saw God at work, God at work in a very tangible, incarnate way. Like right now.
So, the journey rolls on…with Jesus at our side.
And here at Our Savior’s? First, check out the “Covid-19 Response” page. We’ll keep it up to date as best as we can, and as quickly as we can.
There are, however, some things in the works…
Watch the video page of our web site (https://www.oursaviorswestsalem.org/videos/) for a worship video by (I hope) 6 PM Saturday, then each Saturday afterward. The choir will sing Holden Evening Prayer, and either myself or Pastor Jean will provide a message.
Check out the same page for a Children’s message on video, and a Sunday School lesson. We’ll be sending out some Sunday School material to parent’s e-mail addresses, probably by the end of the week, which kids can use with the video lesson. If you have a Sunday School child, and don’t get it by Friday, or if you have a friend or neighbor who would like the material, let us know.
Remember that we are praying for you. Someone is in the sanctuary every morning from 11:45 to Noon, praying. You can join them wherever you are, or…be one of the pray-ers. Contact us to sign up!
We are planning a “phone-tree” – to assemble a team to make phone calls. Just a connection, a hello, a “how are you” moment. Maybe you could be one of the callers?
And finally, back to food – don’t forget about the Food Pantry. We expect an increase in needs. Can you be the presence of “God in flesh” in someone’s life?
There you go. Lots happening, just like at Christmas. Lots of gifts, lots of hopes, lots of dreams. But most of all, lots of “God in our midst” in Jesus!
Two final thoughts…first, if you have a need, let us know. We aren’t always sure how things will unfold, but we will figure things out. So, let know…
Second…know that in the midst of these days Pastor Jean and I are grateful for you, and we remember you in our prayers. So, please stay safe, and know that we yearn to see you again soon!