A weary world rejoices. For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
We certainly have the weary world part covered, but are we ready for the new and glorious morn. Are we ready for peace goodwill toward men? Are we ready to recognize that no matter what happens in this world, we have a savior, a messiah, a king of kings that turns every dark and dreadful day to light and joy?
How, you ask, can you make light from the tragedies surrounding us? Well, let’s just start with my top three ways we can celebrate Christmas in the time of COVID.
GRATITUDE: A gratitude list is a perfect prescription for the blues. It chases the clawing negative thoughts from my mind and sets me up to see anew the gifts of God in my life. Firstly, I am grateful for the many Christmases I have enjoyed over the years. Notably, it is not the gifts but the people and the many ways we expressed our joy. Most of my memories stem from church activities. The many choir cantatas that took months to prepare and an hour to disseminate filled me with such a thrill of joy I seemed to float for days. Secondly, participating with the children’s Christmas plays, was a gift that kept on giving as when on long boring car trips, the children would regale us with word for word recitations of scene and song. Thirdly, candlelight service, was the pinnacle of Christmas traditions. I am so grateful we will soldier through a semblance of the holy intensity of darkness broken only by a simple, humble candle and the singing of Silent Night, from our homes on Christmas Eve 2020. In the vein of the commercial, “What’s in your gratitude list?”
FEAR NOT: Fear is a paralyzing, self-sabotaging, epidemic plaguing us from every aspect of our lives today. It clouds our thinking, freezes our actions, and is ultimately a deadly tonic of poison. In the midst of the pandemic. Our country has tallied more suicides than Covid-19 deaths in 2020 and yet, we continue to imbibe fear monger news pundits, wallow in pity-parties, drench ourselves with scary movies, what-if scenarios, and isolate in our cocoon of control. I’ll admit that the quarantine has given me time for perhaps the first time in my life to have more time than activities. While disquieting at first, it has become very alluring friend, I don’t have to do anything. COVID is a pass for anything! But like any sin, yes I said sin, doing nothing is as debilitating and doing too much. So with this pass, we fortify the walls of isolation and become more self-absorbed and fearful than ever. Rather than gaining control of our lives, we have small fear-filled days waiting for someone or something out of our control to save us from our stymied existence. Guess what? It’s happening. The angels are calling to us again, “Fear not, for unto you is born a Savior.” I do not know the exact number of times, “Fear Not” is relayed in scripture, but suffice it to say, a BUNCH. The message is clear, God is with us, we have nothing to fear. Fear and Love cannot co-exist! Choose LOVE! “Fear not …for I am with you always.” Matthew 28:10,20
Preston Hollow UMC: On Christmas Eve 2000, I sat for the first time in the pews of PHUMC with the all the beautiful decorations enhanced with tiny lights. Through the darkness came my favorite, song “ Mary Did You Know.” Sitting three of four rows from the back I could not see the vocalist, but it was beautifully and warmly delivered. My son, whose ideas it was to visit the little white church on Walnut Hill, patted my hand and whispered, “Mom, I think that is Suzy Blaylock!” And it was! We didn’t think we knew anyone at this church and then there was Suzy, a friend from our theater days in Archer City, miles and years away. We were completely absorbed into Preston Hollow from that day forward. We had been without a church home for three years since moving to Dallas as empty nesters. And a little child (our 21 year old son) shall lead them became the answer to our prayers.
Tomorrow night will be the twentieth anniversary of that pairing. The beginning of so many memories of fun, fellowship, bible studies, prayer studies, prayer teams, choir, Sunday school teaching and attending classes, mission-work, heart-heavy good byes, spiritual growing pains, pot luck dinners, a live nativity to rival all others, spring and fall community festivals, and a renowned pumpkin patch that beautifies the neighborhood while funding impactful mission projects to name just a few of the ways my FAITH muscles have been tested, strengthened, and used in service to God and man. It is because of these trials and blessings, I can tell you today, I have FAITH that JESUS is on the throne with the Father and the Spirt and they are FAITHFUL to LOVE us, their children, through anything.
And so it is that we can live, love, laugh rejoice in the days of COVID. While we make this Christmas the most memorable one possible, we can invite Jesus (God with us) to be present with us in this new and our strangest Christmas of them all.
Every day when we remember to call-on, lean-on, and take-on Jesus, we find new paths through this present darkness.