Note to reader: This is a brief essay that I wrote this week for the newsletter for All Souls Episcopal Church, where Embry and I have been members since the mid 1980s.
What will historians say about the year 2020? There has never been anything like it in my lifetime of almost 80 years. Covid-19 has affected the entire world though the U.S. has been hit the hardest. We have already lost more than 300,000 Americans to this dread disease. Some 15 million of us have been infected, and the number is growing by over 3,000 deaths a day as the pandemic rages on. Is there anyone in the U.S. that does not know of someone who has been infected? And what about all those who are grieving the thousands who have died?
These are indeed hard times. Many of us feel like we have been confined to house arrest. We are not able to hug friends and be with family and loved ones for special occasions like Thanksgiving and Christmas. We are sick of having to wear masks and to keep our social distancing and are tired of Zooming, though without it we would be even worse off. We are weary of the isolation and the uncertainty. We are wondering how long this will go on, and will we dodge the bullet.
Advent gives us a clue and something to hold on to. As the days get shorter and colder, you can understand why our prehistoric ancestors must have wondered whether every year might be the last. Would the days keep getting shorter until darkness prevailed on the planet forever? But like a miracle, every year the days would start getting longer again. Another bullet dodged.
Life for many of us humans from time to time has its periods of darkness and despair. We wonder if there is light at the end of the tunnel. We ask—will we get through this?
The message of Advent is that yes, we will. At the end of this darkening season comes Christmas. Days will start getting longer again. On Christmas day we Christians will celebrate the birth of a child in a manger whose life showed us that there is light at the end of this tunnel, that life does have purpose and meaning, that in the end love prevails, that all human life is sacred, and that we all are children of God.
And this Advent, the light is already starting to flicker. Vaccines are on the way. Yes, 2021 will also be hard, but we will get through this.