None of us expected 2020 to be as 2020 has been. Last New Year’s Eve we probably had the high points of the coming year all mapped out. I certainly did!
Then there was this little piece of news that an unusual virus was spreading in Wuhan Province in China. If you were anything like me, you probably thought, ‘I do not need to be concerned about that.’ I could not have been more wrong.
Now we are looking back on the most unusual year many of us have known. One word has dominated and still dominates the news: COVID-19, something that did not even have a name 12 months ago.
As we look forward to 2021, there are signs of hope, with the various vaccines being developed, but we are also aware that there is still some distance to travel.
In this province I think we have understood very well what Dr. Russell and the premier have told us on several occasions: “We are all in this together.”
While the virus has impacted different groups in the population with greater intensity than others — not just the infection itself, but other effects like employment issues and mental health problems — generally we have tried to look out for each other.
I know that for many, it is easy to feel that we have been deserted by God during this period. As I have said before, there are no easy answers in this regard.
What we can know is what God is. God is love, God is present, God is peace, God is hope, God is just. These and many more are God’s attributes.
I have been asked numerous times, how can you know this? The first part of my answer always sounds like wishful thinking to many: I go by faith. It should be noted that I do not say “blind faith.” It is the faith of the writer of the letter to the Hebrews:
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1.
There are strong words there, assurance and conviction. How do we move into assurance and conviction with regard to the things we hope for by faith? The answer is simple, yet complicated: Jesus.
At this time of year we are reminded of what is known as the Incarnation. This is a multi-layered idea which is not easy to simplify but is the essence of the Christian faith. Without it, the other vital parts of Jesus as the centre of the salvation story could not have happened.
In the Bible Jesus is spoken of as the “Word made flesh.” God, who spoke creation into being, comes to earth wholly God and wholly human.
At Christmas we focus on the baby born in a manger and miss the full sweep of what is happening. God chooses to walk with us. He enters into the full experience of living our life. He knows what it is to have friends, to be alone, to enjoy meals, to be hungry and to suffer the extremity of human suffering, even death on a cross.
In all of this, God with us takes all of us into all of him, so that as we suffer, God suffers; as we celebrate, God celebrates; as we feel distress, God is distressed; as we feel the bite of loneliness, God is there. There is nothing about us that God does not understand, because he travels with us out of love and in love.
It is the Incarnation, God with us, that gives me and many others the assurance and conviction of things hoped for. Knowing the lengths that God is prepared to go for his beloved, the creation God spoke into being, does not lead to blind faith, but faith.
It is my prayer that despite all the challenges of 2020 and uncertainties of 2021, that you will have a blessed Christmas and New Year.
Lighten our darkness, we beseech thee, O Lord;
and by thy great mercy defend us from all perils and dangers of this night;
for the love of thy only Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ.
In Christ’s Service,