Pastor Steve Brown
Greetings to the Saints of St. Mark!
This has been a tough year, a dark year. The pall of the Coronavirus came wafting back in January or February, wisps of smoke barely visible in the sky. But by March, the storm clouds had gathered, dark and thick, a smog of pestilence to blot out the sun. We are living in the shadow, moments of light that help us forget then back to the haze and the gray as numbers rise and hospitals fill.
We live in the great disruption of our time, where gatherings are cancelled. Or if they are held, the rooms are bare and chairs are empty. Normal has been hijacked. Our routines upset because of masks and distance, sheltering and trying to be safe. Traveling about, whether to other countries through airports or outside one’s home to the store, is now an act of bravery and risk.
Christmas itself is a disruption, that first Christmas some two-thousand and twenty years ago. For centuries the world had plodded on since sin first entered the world. Eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth, dust to dust, ashes to ashes, brokenness and shame, fear and death. Sin is the DNA of all diseases, of wars and violence, cancers and plagues. Rebellion of the will or of the cell ripples throughout creation and manifests itself in countless ways. We are aware of the evidence of sin on the human level by anger, selfishness, greed, lust, sorrow, pain, and shame. On the macro-level we see it in wars and oppression, slavery and genocide. In the micro-level we find it in rogue cancer cells, illnesses, birth defects, and pandemics.
That first Christmas, light came and shattered the darkness. The promise was that those who dwell in darkness would see a great light, the true light that enlightens everyone was coming into the world – Emmanuel, God with us, is here. The first Christmas was announced with tidings for great joy for all people. The Savior to redeem us from sin and the Lord who would break its power and restore God’s Kingdom would be born and found lying in a manger. Christmas came and disrupted the old normal and brought something new. The whole Christmas story begins with animal skins in the Garden of Eden, Abraham and Sarah, Moses and Israel, David and Daniel, Isaiah and Malachi. The whole Christmas story was begun in a stable but continued at Cana and Nazareth, by the Jordan River and the Sea of Galilee, in Jerusalem and Gethsemane, and on Calvary – and an empty tomb. It is told through parables and miracles, in power and compassion, and written in gospels, letters, and the lives of those who follow Jesus. It was carried by women on a Sunday, 120 in an upper room, from Jerusalem to Judea to Samaria to the uttermost parts of the earth.
Of course, it’s not Christmas Day that holds the hope. It’s not thoughts of a new year in 2021 that encourage us. It’s not even an idea that the Coronavirus of 2020 will be gone anytime soon. It’s Jesus Christ that gives us a normal – that often seems so abnormal – each and every day. Normal is there in forgiveness every day. Normal is death has been defeated and resurrection is here. Hope, Joy, Peace, and Love are not just words in our ears but the presence of One who lives within our hearts. All is not well yet, but we catch glimpses of it. All is not right yet, but it is coming. What will get us through a pandemic – or anything else in life – is Jesus, the One born on Christmas Day and who lives onward from Easter Sunday. He brings the light in dark times and offers us always a new normal.
The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never overcome it. (John 1:5)