It is to my absolute amazement that COVID is still with us for Christmas 2021. Who knew? Our Sovereign God, that’s who! I take great comfort in the fact that God knew about COVID all along. Since the beginning of the world, God knew and He is not surprised by this.
Last year at about this time, I walked around a store and was very attracted to a package of assorted Christmas-themed face masks. I absolutely could not resist the candy-cane patterned fabric. As I bought this brightly colored package of masks, I couldn’t help but laugh to myself about how much of a waste of money this was! ‘A package of masks for only four weeks of the Christmas season? That’s kind of silly! Especially since we DEFINITELY WON’T be masking by next Christmas!’ God must have been giggling to Himself too!
Last year as I wrote these Advent reflections for my church, I felt a deep sense of conviction for myself to correct some negative behaviors and attitudes that I had developed during COVID. That conviction combined with the theme of “COVID Christmas Advent Readings” led to what I am sharing now. These thoughts were shared last Christmas with our church and by God’s perfect timing and grace, they are still very much applicable in our churches today. My sincere hope and prayer is that God will use them to convict and correct - beginning in my own heart!
The First Sunday of Advent. What a year it has been. This is the Sunday of HOPE. But what exactly are we hoping for? Or in? We live in a time when hope can be hard to find – even more so now in the throes of a global pandemic. In reflecting on 2020 and 2021 and the theme of hope, I can’t help but also think about grief. Are you grieving this year? Are you grieving the loss of a beloved pass time or hobby? Are up grieving the loss of ‘normal life’ with hugs and handshakes for your neighbours? Are you grieving the loss of precious time with a loved one in a quarantined hospital or seniors home? Or are you grieving the loss of a life or lives? It may seem odd to connect grief to hope, but they are intrinsically linked. And Scripture lays it out perfectly – we do not grieve as those who have no hope! (I Thessalonians 4:13). We have hope in a Savior, a coming King! And this Christmas Season, this is our hope.
“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned! You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy. They rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest…For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his governance and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteous from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.” (Isaiah 9:2-3, 6-7) Amen.
The Second Sunday of Advent. This is the Sunday of PREPARATION. This is the season that the church prepares for the coming of Christ. Preparation takes time and space. This requires us to make time and space. And this may look different for each of us. Do we need to make time by stepping away from news media? Facebook? Do we need to step away from controversy, mask debates, or being frustrated with political leaders? What does creating time and space for preparing for Christ’s coming to Earth look like for you? Because there will not be time or space unless we create it in our chaotic world.
“Comfort, comfort my people says your God. Speak Tenderly to Jerusalem. Tell her that her sad days are gone and her sins are pardoned. Yes, the Lord has punished her twice over for all her sins. Listen! It’s the voice of someone shouting, ‘Clear the way through the wilderness for the Lord! Make a straight highway through the wasteland for our God! Fill the valleys, and level the mountains and hills. Straighten the curves, and smooth out the rough places. Then the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all people will see it together. The Lord has spoken!” (Isaiah 40: 1-5) Amen.
The Third Sunday of Advent. This is the Sunday of JOY and PEACE … difficult things to come by in our age of fear, debates, illness and unrest. It seems that joy and peace are far off. But where do joy and peace come from? And where do they go? If we believe that joy and peace come directly from the sovereign God himself, the Creator of the universe and Author of our faith – how do joy and peace ever leave us? I will be the first to admit that in this time of uncertainty, with COVID staring me in the face, I’ve lost my focus on Christ and fallen far from a state of joy and peace. Is there joy and peace in your heart? Or do you find yourself ruffled by current events? My hope is that this Advent reading itself does not provide you with joy and peace, but that it would convict you to refocus on the Creator and Author of joy and peace.
“Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows, but take heart because I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) Amen.
The Fourth Sunday of Advent. This is the Sunday of LOVE and ADORATION. Oh come let us adore him, Christ the Lord! We celebrate the love we have for our Savior and the love we have for each other. It’s been said that the church should be careful that we do not worship an infant – we worship the powerful and mighty God of the universe! He who is all powerful and all present. As we take time to love and adore the Christ child in our idyllic mind’s eye nativity scene, let’s not leave the baby in the manger. He grew up to heal the sick, rebuke religious leaders, perform various miracles, and die a brutal death on the cross for our salvation. And He is seated high at the right hand of the Father, deserving our love and adoration. And let’s not forget love for our neighbour. Is this more difficult these days of physical distancing? Is it more difficult when your neighbour has a different opinion on masks? Or public health orders? What about vaccination status? May we be in pursuit of the love God wants to give to our neighbours through us.
“Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection and take delight in honoring each other. Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble and keep on praying” (Romans 12:9-12).
“Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose. Don’t be selfish, don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of quality with God as something to cling to. Instead he gave up his divine privileges, he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth. And every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the Glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:1-11) Amen.
This article was originally published in The Recorder, Vol 58 No 6
Kelsey resides in Hepburn SK where her husband Jesse pastors Hepburn Gospel Church. She works in the mental health field and enjoys coffee, horseback riding, and spending time with her dogs.