High River United Church of High River, Alberta


Another Pandemic Christmas

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Next year, we said.  Next year, we’ll be back to normal.  That was our dream as we locked down and limited our gatherings for Christmas 2020.  Next year!


But here we are a year later, and life is not back to “normal.”  Vaccinations have provided a bit more freedom and a bit more security.  But a new variant has been identified and unsettled things.   We are not fully open, fully gathering, no worries in the world.  It’s just another pandemic Christmas.  Oh my!


This is the time when we really need the Christmas story – not the warm fuzzy story but the real story of a couple ostracized because their marriage and pregnancy didn’t follow the norms of society.  Mary and Joseph must marry quietly without the traditional feasts, celebrations and family gatherings.  Then they are forced into a long journey when Mary is within days of giving birth.  Imagine riding on a donkey or walking 160 km when you are nine months pregnant.  What is now a 2 hour car ride, would have required at least 4 days of walking  (at about 40 km a day – imagine that!). Even if they had a donkey, the trip would not have been any faster. 


Mary gives birth in a barn, once again separated from the women who would have normally supported her through the birthing.  Joseph scrambles to find them a place to rest and comes up with a stable, a barn filled with manure and animals.  Probably not his first choice or our first choice of the place to welcome a baby into the world. 


Then Mary and Joseph must flee to Egypt to escape King Herod’s vendetta against their baby, putting a great distance between themselves and the determined king, but also a great distance between themselves and their families.  And remember there was no way to text or e-mail or even phone to let their families know where they were going. 


This story is full of separation, loneliness and challenge.  And into the messiness and difficulty of this whole situation comes God.   The gospel of Matthew declares that the baby Jesus is “Emmanuel” meaning “God is with us.”  So God comes right into the centre of this difficult, upsetting, challenging situation.  And that is where we find hope in the story. 


God does not save us from difficult and tragic situations – but God is right there with us, sustaining us, supporting us, encouraging us, and guiding us through. 


When I think of the baby Jesus in the manger, a peace settles upon me.  The messiness of the barn fades into the background, the challenges of the situation melt away  -- and all there is – is Love!  Love in that baby in the manger.  Love that comes from God.  Love that enfolds and sustains us.


So yes, it is another pandemic Christmas.  Yes, we still may be kept from having the family or friends gatherings and worship celebrations we want to have.  But right in the center is Love – the love of God we know in Jesus and through each other.  We don’t need to wait until next year to welcome Love!  God is right here, right now, in the middle of just another pandemic Christmas.  For this I am so grateful.


With many blessings to each of you,


Rev. Susan Lukey


December 2, 2021



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