First Sunday of Advent
November 29, 2020
I am longing for the day when I can spend some time with God talking about something other than the pandemic.
And I really thought that day might be today…the first Sunday of Advent. After all, this is the first season of a new liturgical year.
And it’s a season of hope!
Advent is the season of “hope fulfilled” by the birth of Jesus Christ…as well as hope for the future as we wait patiently….and prepare joyfully…for the Lord’s return in glory.
But, as soon as I opened the readings for this first Sunday of this brilliant season of excitement and preparation…you guessed it…I started thinking about Covid.
It happened this way.
In reading the Old Testament passage from Isaiah that describes a distracted people wandering away from God…preoccupied by their own thoughts and desires…doing their own thing. Maybe they were just tired of waiting for God to act.
The fact is, the first reading is about people leaving their safety zone, putting distance between them and God, oblivious as to how reckless and dangerous their behavior is.
Well, as I pondered that profile of the disappointing side of human nature, I began to think about the repeated warnings …not from Old Testament prophets, but from modern day medical experts, cautioning Americans to be responsible….and limit travel…and the size of gatherings…as we celebrate Thanksgiving.
Several times, I heard the public service address: A Zoom Thanksgiving is a lot better than an ICU Christmas!
But it seems that many people disregarded the warnings…preoccupied by the very understandable desire to celebrate with loved ones…tired of waiting for a vaccine…anxious to do as they want, not as they were being “cautioned.” Many left their safety zones and traveled to holiday gatherings in spite of the risks, disregarding the potential danger to themselves and to others.
As a result, hospitals are talking about the wave of sick folks they expect between now and Christmas. Instead of getting ready for the holidays, medical personnel are getting ready for a tsunami of critically ill patients blasting through the doors of emergency rooms all around the United States.
The preparations they are making include something hospital administrators call “Crisis standard of care.” That means those patients who have the greatest possibility of recovery will be cared for first and given the most attention. Patients who appear to be “hopeless” will receive less of the precious and increasingly scarce resources.
Now, if you happen to be someone who was a little less cautious in your Thanksgiving celebration, these thoughts I’m sharing aren’t intended to criticize you, to make you feel guilty, or to frighten you. I share them only as a reminder to everyone of how relevant sacred scripture is to every day and age…especially in challenging, even dangerous times like we are living through right now.
Isaiah paints a picture of folks living thousands of years ago. But, if you look closely, we can see ourselves in that picture, which is a profile of disappointing human characteristics.
But don’t linger with the first reading. Move on to the Epistle and the Gospel.
The New Testament message is as timely and relevant to us in this challenging year as it was to the early Christians.
Think of it this way: God is totally aware of the fact that part of our human nature often “disappoints.”
Our Creator knows full well that we are…and have always been…easily distracted…preoccupied by our own thoughts and desires that cause us to distance ourselves from God’s will and God’s ways…doing our own thing.
From the very beginning of time, God has watched as we recklessly wander out of the safety zone and into darkness and danger.
So, God sent Jesus into this world to initiate a “crisis standard of care” in order to heal us from all the self-inflicted wounds we suffer by allowing that “disappointing part” of human nature to take control over our lives.
The grace and peace which Jesus offers heals us and helps to protect us from further injury. Best of all, it is available to everyone without limit, especially those who are at highest risk. Those who appear to have the worst chance of survival are not overlooked.
And therein lies our reason for hope!
The grace and peace of Jesus Christ that came into this world at Christmas protects us from harm…and heals us when we do fall victim to that “disappointing part” of human nature.
So, it would appear that while there are many things to speak to God about, in fact, it is a very good thing to bring our grave concerns about the pandemic to reflection and prayer, because the Living Word of God brings grace and peace, healing and protection.