“I thought it would be kind of like a winter storm. Turns out it’s more like an Ice Age…”

UM Oklahoma Pastor

Short-Term Interruption or Long-Term Transition?

Recently a United Methodist pastor from Oklahoma shared how her perspective on the Covid-19 pandemic has changed from a short-term interruption to a long-term transition.

“I thought it would be like a winter storm here in Oklahoma. We get a warning about it, stock up on some items from the store, expect school to be out for a couple of days, notify the congregation that some of the regularly scheduled activities will be cancelled until next week, and then plan on some time at home. Turns out this pandemic is more like an Ice Age. It is much longer and more exhausting than any of us anticipated…and it is changing everything.”

The reality is dawning on all of us that this pandemic is a turning point. It seems to be one of those epochal experiences that will change not just our activities, but our hopes, fears, relationships, and perspective for a very long time; maybe forever.

And now it is the Advent/Christmas Season!

But an Advent/Christmas season like almost no other.

  • No sanctuaries full of carol-singing congregants.
  • No children’s Christmas musicals or Christmas pageants.
  • No community Christmas Dinner to welcome those with no other place to go.
  • No Christmas Eve packed worship service, candle lighting, and singing “Silent Night.”

Altogether it can seep into our minds and hearts as a heavy cloak of grief. So much of the normal, usual, and customary has been upended and canceled. We fear that in more ways than we imagine things will never be the same again. Seems like “The Pandemic That Stole Christmas”.

Ah, Thank God for Advent!

The wisdom of the church through the ages has been that before our season of celebration there is a long season of waiting, expectation, and preparing. This is not just the way the church calendar runs; it is the way God acts. In our Bibles, we flip a page between the Old Testament and the New Testament. That flip of a page represents about 400 years of God’s people waiting for God to act between the last of the prophets and the birth of Jesus.

Many of us love the celebration of Christmas. As one person put it, even the retailers at this time of year sing, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.”. But Advent? Well, with those strange Scriptures concerning John the Baptist, the Final Judgement, Sheep and Goats, and the seemingly insignificant minor characters like Zechariah, Elizabeth, Simeon, Anna, and those interminable genealogies of generation after generation until we finally get to Jesus – not to mention the massively awkward embarrassment of Mary’s pregnancy and threatening cloud of King Herod in the background … well, that is a whole lot of complex waiting, expecting, and preparing before the coming of the Savior, the Light which the darkness cannot and will not overcome.

Those Scriptures we stumble through in worship to get to The Manger might be so helpful in this slow Advent that has come upon us. Marinating for a while in the Advent Scriptures can keep us from rushing to Bethlehem and strengthen us for our own long, sometimes frustrating, even heartbreaking, journey to live faithfully in the “between time”; between the First Coming and Second Coming of the Lord Jesus.

The Scripture reminds us:

“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

2 Peter 3:9 NIV

Here’s an encouraging word:

We can use these Advent days to trade in our anxious insistence for things to “go back to normal” or for “this pandemic to come to an end”. Since so much of the busyness of Christmas has been cancelled, we have time to let the Scriptures nourish and sustain us for the long journey ahead. This season, in unexpected ways, is a gift to renew and restore our trust in God, “who keeps every promise forever” (Psalm 146:6 NLT)

“who keeps every promise forever”

Psalm 146:6 NLT

Footnote:

What are the Advent Scriptures for this year?

Week OfScripture
November 29Isaiah 64:1-9 and Mark 13:24-27
December 6Isaiah 40:1-11 and Mark 1:1-8
December 13Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11 and John 1:6-8, 19-28
December 202 Samuel 7:1-11,16 and Luke 1:26-38
Christmas EveIsaiah 9:2-7 and Luke 2:1-20
We are in Year B of the Lectionary Readings.

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REV. DR. SCOTT FIELD

REV. DR. SCOTT FIELD

NIC Clergy/Retired
Resource Networking Coordinator
Northern Illinois Wesleyan Covenant Association

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