This week we lit the candle of joy for Advent. However, I am fixed in a season of lament. I am not in despair, nor am I enduring any particular suffering personally, but I know many who are. Among family and friends, there are those who have lost loved ones to COVID. Some are dealing with job loss, divorce, and yet more are spiritually discouraged. The political distractions have weighed us down and we are disheartened by the public discourse so full of vitriol. It is a heavy season.
We are isolated.
Or maybe it’s just me. But I suspect not.
What does it look like to wait for His glorious appearance as His church while not fully in community? What does it mean to remain faithful while at home, sheltering in place?
More of our worship times have gone to Zoom with the colder weather and spikes of COVID cases. While our family’s participation in the Eucharist looks like the photo above, I know the truest story is that we are still being lifted up to the heavens week after week as we take in the body and blood of Christ. The heavens and the earth yet rejoice.
Although it is difficult for me to muster the emotion, my faith knows the hope of joy and peace we will one day experience fully.
Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.
We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.
Romans 5:1-5 (NLT)
Does God feel far away as we are in the midst of a pandemic-induced isolation? Does he seem distant from our political and social strife, or personal sadness?
Because our Creator created us for community, it hurts when we are without the physical presence of others. In truth, we are created in his own communal, trinitarian image. We most often experience God through others.
How did Mary, the mother of the Christ, endure? Did she feel God was far away with every sideways glance at her growing belly? She was likely shunned. Her life had changed drastically. And yet, when she may have felt the loneliest, there were Elizabeth and faithful Joseph, and God drawing closer to her, growing inside her, the closest he had ever been.
So he is with us, just as he promised.
He doesn’t necessarily carry us out of our grief and hardships, but sits with us in them. Entangled with our moments of sadness, we also have the joy of hope. We have Christ Himself.
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted;
he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.
Psalms 34:18 (NLT)