Friday, December 24, 2021

Too Hot to Handle: A COVID Christmas

In which our regular writers toss around subjects a little more holiday-oriented than usual.

Tom: I was out for my early morning walk in a little bit of a mood, and I decided the thing to do was to spend my prayer time thanking the Lord for the good things he has brought into my life and the great things he is doing in this world.

I’m sure you can imagine exactly what happened, IC: my mood changed drastically.

Immanuel Can: Gratitude will do that, won’t it? One of the great sins of mankind is lack of it.

Tom: So, I thought maybe since Christmas Eve is a Friday this year and we’ll be doing a post together anyway, that perhaps we could share with our readers a few things for which we are thankful to the Lord, notwithstanding — and perhaps maybe even because of — the current circumstances.

Hit Me with a Truth Bomb. Fire Away.

Here’s my first: I’m thankful for clarity. The province of New Brunswick this week announced that its grocers are now permitted to ban unvaccinated shoppers. That’s a huge move. Arguably, some of the measures introduced to control the spread of the virus have been reasonable, but this one is a new low. Coercive vaccination, as I have said repeatedly, is not the mark of the beast, but it comes from the same playbook, and it is a prelude to it. I don’t know about you, IC, but I think we can officially declare this a spiritual battle and not just a political one. It was already spiritual but now, if you’ll forgive me, the mask is off and we can see it clearly as such. We have been hit with a truth bomb, and there’s no going back.

IC: I see the game: think of what’s been good out of COVID, instead of complaining.

Tom: Hey, it’s Christmas. There’s no coal in this-here stocking!

Human Contact

IC: Okay, I’m very grateful for how it’s transformed our relations with our unsaved neighbors. They used to cocoon in their houses all the time and never bother with others in the neighborhood. In lockdown they got hungry for human contact. For the first time, they’re not only willing but eager to talk to other people, and are ready to visit on the street. A small act of kindness toward them bursts their hearts open favorably.

What an opportunity for the gospel we have now, and how kind of the Lord to provide it to us! I hope all of us are alert to that gift and are making use of the opportunity to save souls.

Tom: Amen to that.

Biblical Hospitality

I’m grateful for a resurgence of biblical hospitality. A number of Christian friends have gone back to extending invitations with a vengeance. If you can’t go to the restaurant Sunday after meeting (and maybe couldn’t go to the meeting either), you can always go to the right person’s home. You might have to sneak in a side door, though, if there is a return to formal gathering limits.

Why did this happen? Perhaps the lockdowns sweetened our appreciation of the privilege it is to care for God’s people. For others, it’s the privilege of enjoying Christian fellowship. Or maybe my friends were always that way, and I am just reaping the benefits now. Either way, homemade food cooked by someone with love and skill is just the best. Everybody’s sick of takeout at this point.

IC: Yes, hospitality in renewed ways; that’s definitely something I’ve experienced.

Sheep from Goats

And now, another thing that I think COVID can end up doing … a bit more ominous, perhaps, but still something to be grateful for: it’s really bringing out of people whatever is in there.

Tom: Ain’t that the truth.

IC: Those people for whom church fellowship was either a convenience or a ritual are tending to drop away as things become more difficult. We’re seeing who is committed and who is not. And as the controversies are heating up we are seeing who is practicing grace, and who is secretly an angry or legalistic person, by exhibition of what each does with those who dissent from their view of how COVID should be “managed”.

Tom: You mean how the rules should be enforced, what church meetings should look like, and so on.

IC: Right. That’s not an entirely comfortable process, of course; but it is very clarifying. And it bodes well going forward for the health of the local church if those who are not really eager to be Christlike are encouraged by the circumstances to go their own way. So we might well be grateful that at last there are some issues that make being nominally-Christian less comfortable, middle-class and easy than it used to be, and that show the areas in which some of us need to work on our commitment, our Christlike graciousness, or our level of trust in the Lord’s ability to lead us through.

This can improve our faith, our fitness and our fellowship (if I may be so Scottish as to alliterate the thing).

Tom: Aye. I’ll baa that. Er ... buy.

Standing on Ceremony

I’m grateful I work at an office with fearless people. Everybody who’s not fearless is at home. But it means that because we are not client-facing, we don’t have to bother with all the ridiculous protocols that only exist to show who’s playing along with the narrative and who isn’t.

For the record (and I’m using well-known mainstream media sources for all these), masks don’t work; six foot distancing doesn’t work, and the distancing that does work for an airborne virus is not feasible in a city. And all those Plexiglass and plastic barriers may actually make things worse. Most people have some sense that the current rules were cobbled together for the sake of making local, provincial and federal governments look like they are actually doing something about a problem nobody but God himself can fix, but few can be bothered to act consistently on that knowledge.

Now I just wish Christians could put their heads together and come up with a sensible way to respond to one another when we gather corporately. At work, sure, one of us may catch COVID from the others eventually, but that could happen absolutely anywhere. At least we don’t spend 35 extra hours a week complying with rules that everybody knows don’t accomplish the ends for which they are alleged to be designed.

Who’s in Charge?

IC: Yes, and that is tied into something else: the exposure of false consciousness. I’m astounded at the degree to which (speaking generically) our opinions are formed out of what we fear, and out of what we want to believe, rather than what the plain facts are telling us. People believe in masks, social distancing and vaccine passports not because there is actually any data to show they do anything — the passports, in fact, signal nothing at all, because everybody’s infectious, allegedly — but because it makes us all feel better to be doing something. We want to believe that there’s a solution, it’s straightforward, and it’s within our doing.

Tom: Yes, absolutely.

IC: We want to think we can manage the threat of COVID, however great or little it may really be to us. So we lie to ourselves. We tell ourselves things we really know, or should know, are just not true — that the media is honest, that the guy in the lab coat cannot be bought at any price, that the government will watch out for us, that there is no economic or political motive behind vaccines, that masks protect us from infection, that lockdowns are essential, that children are at risk, that no global plot is afoot, and so on, because we want to know we are in charge of the situation.

But one of the greatest lessons we, as Christians, could possibly learn from this is we are not in charge.

Tom: Amen and amen.

Living by Lies

IC: And, we might add, we should learn not to live by lies. COVID should encourage Christians to be more prayerful and heavenly-minded, and much less reliant on their own doing something to manage their lives. And I think that inevitably it will have that effect on anybody who is thinking like a Christian. That can be very good. It’s past time.

Tom: We are creatures, after all. To be made in the image of God is a fantastic thing, but it’s not seeking God’s truth that is going on here. As you say, it’s desperately trying to find evidence for the lie that we can save ourselves; that we are our own telos. And hey, there are some smart people out there, and they come up with great things, but peer pressure, fear and the addiction to mammon tend to compromise or nullify every one of them, including any honest global initiative to save lives. We need to come to grips with that. It’s glorious to just be a creature, and to depend. So lie back and enjoy your own impotence. We can’t fix this, period. As the apostle put it, “I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” That’s an on-the-nose assessment of the human condition.

I have found myself praying twice as long and twice as hard in the last few months. That can’t be bad.

Got any more, IC? I’m already feeling festive! Christmas is a defenseless baby in a manger, not an army of scientists, experts and political animals. God’s ways are always counterintuitive.

IC: Oh, I hope there’s more.

And on that topic, as we watch the world spiral, does it not underline to us that what the Lord said was always true: that the things of this earth are passing away, but the one who seeks the Lord abides forever. Are we not reminded that it profits us nothing to gain the whole world? Does it not underline that what we have been doing all along, as Christians, has been the very best thing a person can do: to invest in eternity, not in the fading glories of this world? Does it not make us think of the coming surpassing weight of glory that is reserved for those who love God?

“Bye-bye shadowlands; the term is over, and all the holidays have begun.”

How could we think of all that and not give thanks?

Tom: How indeed. And you would go and quote one of my favorite lyrics ever. That’s definitely the way to wrap this one up.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

No comments :

Post a Comment