As we move closer to the end of year 2 of this pandemic, if we mark the real start of it in March 2020, I’m sure most of you are wondering when all this will end. We have a new variant, Omicron, now on the loose, causing worldwide panic and fear. Some countries are shutting down again and reinitializing lockdown procedures as have been in place in the past. I understand you don’t want to hear this, and maybe your blood pressure is rising just from reading about it. Unfortunately, I can’t change this reality. I can’t make this pandemic end. I wish I could. I wish I could snap my fingers and everything would go back to how it was in October 2019 before this all started in China, but alas, I cannot. But what I can do is offer hope, or at least I can try.
We just finished up the Christmas season. As the song goes, it’s the most wonderful time of the year, and I think most of us would agree with those words. But do you know the backdrop and historical context of Christmas? I bet most of Israel was asking this same question of “When will it end?” You see, they were coming off of 400 years of silence from God. They hadn’t had a prophet. They hadn’t had any voice or word from God for 400 years. That just astonishes me. I mean, think about it. 400 years ago, the Pilgrims were celebrating the first Thanksgiving, give or take a few years at least. A lot has happened in this country since then. Colonies were formed which led to a revolution and birth of a new country. Multiple wars have been fought, both with ourselves and other countries. The Industrial Revolution and the Technological Revolution. 46 presidents, 50 states, and incredible progress as the United States, much to the dismay of the Native Americans, expanded across the continent. The invention of the phone, train, car, airplane, and spacecraft. And I could go on, but I think you get the point. Can you imagine what it would have been like to go through all that with no word from God? No sermon preached on Sunday morning. No books published about theology or the Christian life. I mean, I’m talking about no Alexander Campbell, no Dwight Moody, no C.S. Lewis, no Billy Graham. Are you getting the picture yet?
And out of this period of silence from God to Israel, Christ comes. Out of this 400 year period, where Israel had been ruled by 3 different governments, one of which was their own, a baby came. A baby that brought hope for the future. A hope for redemption. A hope for salvation for all. I know they didn’t fully understand why Jesus came, as they ended up killing him and missing his point, but looking at it from today, Jesus transformed so many lives in his time on Earth, and not to mention in the years since his resurrection and ascension. As Jesus tells John the Baptist’s disciples, “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.” (Luke 7:22 NIV). These are real people whose lives were completely transformed by the work of Christ. People who had very little, or in most of those cases no hope for healing. But God worked in their lives and healed them.
So yes, this is a hard time to be alive in this world. The pandemic is lasting much longer than I ever expected it to. But God is still working. God is still on the throne. God is still blessing so many people. When I was home for Thanksgiving, I had the privilege of seeing one of the kids at my home church get baptized. It was great to see that example of God still at work when it’s so easy to get caught up in all the bad in the world. And maybe, just maybe, can we admit that God is using this pandemic for good? Maybe he’s trying to get your and my attention to teach us that we need to focus more on Him instead of what is happening in the world. It’s so easy to get discouraged by what we see on the news. Maybe you need to turn it off. Maybe instead of watching the news, you need to pick up the Bible or listen to Christian music, or both. I think that if we spent more time with God and less time watching the news, we would have a lot more peace in our lives. We would be more joyful, as the Bible tells us to be. I mean, it’s the second fruit of the spirit. If God could do what He did after 400 years of silence, what do you think he could do for your life and this world if we continually heard from Him through His word? The world could be transformed. And you could be a part of it. How incredible is that? It just takes a decision to change your perspective, so I invite you to do so this year, and watch as God does amazing things because of it.
Colossians 3:1-4 “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” (NIV)