The last of the four candles of Advent wreathe will be lit in churches all over the world on Sunday. If it’s like at our church, somewhere in the service a family or individual will read a passage of scripture, remind us of the candle’s significance (it’s “love” this week) and light the candle. It’s a hiccup in the normal worship routine. We might pay attention, maybe not, then move on with singing of a few carols of the season. But in this “covidy” Christmas (“Covidy” isn’t a word, but it should be. Covid has interrupted, complicated and entangled all of our Christmases), maybe we should pay more attention to the themes of advent– Hope, Peace, Joy and Love. We need them more than ever.
We need Hope. We all thought this covid interruption would surely be over by now, but it’s still raging. In my world, it seems worse than ever. Hope reminds us that we have a future. Hope calls us to look to Jesus and remember (as my cancer fighting friend Lisa likes to remind me) “God’s got this.” It’s grabbing on to Hebrews 10:23 for dear life and not letting that verse go. “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.”
We need peace. Has there ever been such fear and anxiety? A scratchy throat that used to cause the no-brainer popping of a Halls Cough Drop as we moved on through life, now produces worry, anxiety and questioning, “Do I have the virus?” No matter how covid has affected us, Paul’s prayer for the Thessalonians needs to be applied: “Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you.” (2 Thessalonians 3:16 underlining mine).
We need joy. Joy isn’t a passing happiness or a Pollyanna, “ignorance is bliss” outlook. Joy is consumed with the awareness that no matter the circumstance God’s strength is enough. His power is active and able. Joy is a deep, profound satisfaction that God will provide. With the Psalmist we say: “Sing praises to the Lord, O you his saints, and give thanks to his holy name… Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” Psalm 30:4-5
We need love. The pandemic has pushed people to the edges of their opinions. Homicides and suicides are up in nearly every major city. People are lost, lonely, depressed, confused, and angry. Love is missing. We followers of Jesus need to hear John’s words again: Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. I John 3:7
Too often Hope, Peace, Joy and Love are absent in our pandemic driven, “Covidy” Christmas. These expressions of Advent remind us of God’s activity and promises. Let’s go to the One who is more than able to supply our deepest needs this Christmas. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. Ephesians 3:20-21