As I write this post, the COVID situation in Sydney seems to be settling and most people in NSW are able to look forward to some form of Christmas celebration. Our hearts are with those living on the northern beaches who will have fairly minimal contact with others over Christmas, and I pray those left alone have a neighbour who can invite them in under the limit of 5 local residents per gathering. As we have seen all year, communities seem to pull together during a crisis. Perhaps someone always alone will be gathered into a celebration for the first time this year.
In light of this week’s COVID developments and renewed fears it will spread again, a video Christmas message I recorded last week for a local carols service might now seem overly hopeful. But then we can look to the reason for the season, a young child born in isolation to displaced parents, a young pregnant girl with no place of comfort or family to help. Perhaps this year the deprivations of the story, and desperation of those seeking a Messiah, can be more closely felt. With that, the hope in this story will shine even brighter in the darkness of our world. In 2020, the Christmas story not just the overlooked nativity scene in the shadows of our life of abundance, but clearly resonating as a point of hopefulness in a year of pain and loss.
A hope perfectly outlined by Claudia Lovejoy:
Did you ever realize that, on the night Jesus was born, everyone was looking up? Shepherds, wise men, King Herod and his soldiers, men, women, children…everyone! We have no written record of how many people on earth saw the star that night, but no living thing could long ignore the glorious light burning overhead.
“Gloria In Excelsis Deo…Glory to God In the Highest!” These well-known words from a Latin mass written in the dark ages repeat over and over: “Up! Keep Looking upward! Keep your eyes focused upon the Heavens! Lift your heart and hands to the One who is higher!”
We see those same words beautifully echoed by Paul in Colossians 3:1-4: “Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all His glory.”
Could this be an ancient wisdom modern believers have somehow trivialized? The media seeks to remind us, every second of every day, how brutal our world has become. And when our eyes and ears have been saturated with grisly images of human hatred, we are tempted to look around in horror instead of looking upward in hope. May it never be.
The promise of God’s Kingdom is as magnificent as it was that night in Bethlehem. Although many will shake their heads in surrender to doubt and fear, God is unchanged. Although everything on this earth will be shaken, the Kingdom of God is unshakeable. And the only way we will be able to survive the groaning of earth is to focus on the Glory of God. No other comfort will suffice. No other hope will be available to us in the days to come.
When European monks began to chant about the glory of God during the dark ages, human life was pretty grim. Countless millions were dying from disease, war, famine, pestilence and despair. Religious persecution was everywhere, and being burned at the stake was a common occurrence.
Yet in that dismal world, incredible worship could be heard rising above the squalor. Men were building magnificent cathedrals with spires reaching higher and higher towards the heavens. The faithful had learned to look upward, ever upward, because there wasn’t much hope to be found by gazing at their civilization.
And so, this year, let us set our eyes once more on Things Above. When we gather together with our loved ones, give to the poor or show mercy to the stranger, let us keep our eyes focused on the heavens, because the Glory of the Lord is our strong tower.
And it is the only hope that will not disappoint us. ~~Claudia Lovejoy~~ (taken from Limping to Jerusalem Facebook page)