“Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” Romans 5:2 ESV
As we come to the end of 2021, we face an uncertain future, a future that appears more unknown and unpredictable than in previous years. This is the grim reality the present pandemic is forcing all of us to see. The only certainty in the 3rd millennium, besides death and taxes, is that world is heading for destruction. Scientists have warned that if we continue with the reckless consumption of the earth’s resources and ignore the signs of climate change and global warming, the world will come to an end from the folly of humankind.
The coronavirus is God’s megaphone to awaken humankind to the horror of a fallen and broken world and the hopelessness of living with what Pope Francis has described as an “isolated consciousness.” Such a consciousness sows division and is a major obstacle to the union of hearts and minds.1 When each of us live in the world of “I, me and mine” and see others as “them,” we are all prisoners of sin condemned to live with masks, social distancing and quarantine – not only physically but psychologically. We need to be inoculated with God’s virus of love to live with the certain hope of eternal life – as the children of God, as the family of God, and as the Body of the Risen Christ. Jesus taught us to pray, “Our Father who is in heaven,” to teach us to live together in a community of love – with a “us, we, and our” mindset and to live with transparency, vulnerability and intimacy.
This is the hope, grounded in the love of God, that came down at Christmas more than 2000 years ago. Advent is the celebration of the certain hope of God’s overflowing love that is revealed in the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We celebrate the birth of Christ at Christmas to declare the good news that Jesus came to lead us from death to life. Evil is the opposite of “live” and evil forces draws us from life to death. Jesus came to give us the Holy Spirit to lead us from death to life and to be partners in God’s new heaven and earth. We follow Christ in order to be the people of God and to be the temple of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit binds us together as a community of believers through the church. The church is not a museum of saints but a hospital for sinners. Pope Francis reminds us that Jesus did not found the Church as “a citadel of purity nor is it a constant parade of heroes and saints.”2 We need the fellowships of small groups to be the spiritual ICUs to nurse us back from spiritual death to eternal life.
The Covid pandemic marks the dawn of a new age. Pope Francis wisely observed that “in times of crisis and tribulation, we are shaken out of our sclerotic habits” as the love of God purify us and reminds us that we are a people of God. We are invited to “abandon the self-defeating isolation of individualism” – to flow from our “little lagoons” of our limited physical life into the broad river of eternal life.3
The birth of the infant Jesus, helpless and dependent, is the outward and visible sign of the inward and invisible grace of God to teach us that God’s grace is sufficient for His power is greatest in our weaknesses.4 It is by God’s grace that we can live with joyful hope in the face of our problems and trials:
“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.”5
Faith is our response to the grace of God – by faith we see the reality of what we are to hope for and the evidence of things we cannot see.6 Our faith is rooted in the hope that love always trumps evil. This hope is the wondrous gift of God’s heaven given silently when we open our hearts to the Holy Spirit with meekness and faith:
“How silently, how silently, the wondrous Gift is giv’n;
So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of His Heav’n.
No ear may hear His coming, but in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive Him still, the dear Christ enters in.”7
The practice of silence leads us to the mind of Christ8 and opens our eyes to the evil of an “isolated consciousness” that is within us. As the Holy Spirit fills our open hearts with the love of Christ, we can live by faith with the certain and overflowing hope of God’s amazing grace – our doubts are overcome by a love that is stronger than death, our sorrows by unspeakable joy and our fears by the peace that is beyond all human understanding. With Jesus in our hearts, we stand with hope as children of the promise to be a light in a world darkened by the pandemic:
“We will stand as children of the promise
We will fix our eyes on Him our soul’s reward
Till the race is finished and the work is done
We’ll walk by faith and not by sight.”9
1. Pope Francis, Let Us Dream, The Path To A Better Future, (London, Simon & Schuster) pg 69-74
2. Ibid, pg 70
3. Ibid, pg 99 – 102
4. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, NLT
5. Romans 5:3-5, NLT
6. Hebrews 11:1, NLT
7. O Little Town Of Bethlehem
8. 1 Corinthians 2:16, NLT
9. By Faith – Keith & Kristyn Getty