Christmas and the Pandemic
Obviously, our celebration of Christmas this year is different from past Christmases because of a deadly virus, Covid 19. To avoid the spread of the virus and to hasten the end of this plague, the government has imposed restrictions on us: first - social distancing, second - wearing face masks, and third - observing hand hygiene,
In reflection, we see that these restrictions (call them imposed precautions) are the exact opposites of what the event of Christmas is all about, of what happened on the first Christmas night. It is an event of such great importance that we celebrate it, Covid or no Covid, with great reverence, gratitude and joy.
The story of Christmas is not about God distancing Himself from us. On the contrary, it is about God closing the distance between Him and humanity. At a certain point in time, God took on our human nature, became Man like us -- Flesh, Bones, Blood, and all, except sin. His purpose? So that He could dwell among us and bring us back home to where He Himself dwells.
John's Gospel says: “And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” The prophet Isaiah foretold the coming of Emmanuel, which means “God is with us.” Emmanuel is God wanting to be with us in a most intimate way -- in our joys, sufferings, and pain, in our darkness and sin, in our longings and our hopes. God loves us beyond measure and imagination.
God is not a proponent of social distancing.
The story of Christmas is about God revealing Himself, taking off His mask, so to speak. To the Chosen People of old, God manifested His presence that showed His power. For thousands of years, the Prophets foretold His coming. When He finally came, He did so, not as a powerful king (although He is the King of the universe) riding in majesty and grandeur, but as a Baby, born quietly and without fanfare in a humble cave with a manger as His crib. (But angels were there, singing His divinity.) In this way, God revealed Himself as a loving God Who wanted us not to fear Him but to love Him. (We do not fear babies.)
The figure of the Baby Jesus in the manger in our traditional Nativity creche is extending His little arms as if saying: “Hug Me.” Aren't we drawn to pick Him up and hold Him in a tight embrace as we do to our own babies?
On the cross, the same Jesus stretches out His arms as if trying to embrace us and saying, “I love you and I want you to be with me in Paradise.”
God is keeping His Face without a "mask." While we wear masks to avoid our breathing the virus on others, God’s Face is not covered because He breathes on us His love and grace. It is the breath that protects and heals us from the deadly virus of sin and spiritual death.
The story of Christmas is also God saying: “You do not have to wash your hands to be clean. With My Blood, I Myself will wash, not only your hands but your soul from the dirt and virus of sin that brings spiritual sickness and death.”
God does not have to take years to develop a vaccine or antidote for our spiritual Covid disease. He is Himself the Vaccine and the Antidote, yes, the Cure. We find Him in the Sacraments of Reconciliation, the Anointing of the Sick, and the Eucharist. He said, "Whoever eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood will have eternal life."
God came to us in time in such a humble way to share our human life, so that we can share His divine life. Might not our response be to fall in love with Him? Better still, to fall madly in love with Him?
This pandemic will end. And we must not fear. God is in control of the universe he created. God will always be with us, pandemic, or no pandemic. If we provide room for Him in our hearts, He will be born there and change our hearts. From there we can spread Him to others, He Who brings life, He Who heals, He Who wants us to dwell with Him where He dwells . . . forever. #
"He came to what was his own, but his own people did not accept him. But to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God." (John 1:11-12)
Above image of coronavirus by Miroslava Chrienova from Pixabay