It appears to be a starless night, but that’s only because of the clouds, obscuring the light.
I’m bowed before the woodstove on the round carpet that’s become my prayer rug, a place where my forehead meets the ground and the Holy Spirit falls. The air smells of wood chips and ash, and I’m praying for my friend’s father-in-law who’s currently sedated, hooked up to a ventilator which is doing his breathing for him because of COVID. I’m praying for S., who is also struggling to breathe, and for M., who has lost her taste and smell from fighting the virus, but mostly I’m praying for the clouds to shift so that the stars can be revealed in this darkest of nights.
Clouds of fear, anxiety, loneliness and confusion – clouds compounded by months of virtual living, of being bombarded by conspiracy theories, of limited human smiles and touch.
And then my prayers turn to Nate, a man I met while giving out gift bags at Christmas, whose face registered shock and tears – “How did you know?” he said. “A few days ago, I was crying out, asking for help – I’ve been house-bound for months.” We had given him a personalized card, a gift card, and the greatest hope of all – a Bible.
I pray for Christina and Brenda, two other shut-in women who love the Lord but haven’t been able to get to church for months, who cried when our children gave them gift bags and told them God loves them. I pray for my lonely yet faithful grandmother, who goes every day, sometimes twice a day, to the nearby nursing home to wave at the residents through the window while they eat their lunch.
The greatest of these is love
“What good can come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46). The voice is a still, small one, but in it I see the donkey, despised, carrying the scorned Mary, womb full, with the mocked Joseph leading. I see a remnant, emerging from the darkness, the clouds lifting, the stars seeming brighter than ever, holding out the Word of Life (Phil. 2:14).
“What good can come out of COVID?” The answer, again, seems small. Love – misunderstood, foolish, yet clinging to the Messiah – is what can come out of such a despised place. Love is what can come out of COVID. Riding on the simple back of a donkey, leaving the lies behind – following a narrow road to a hidden stable, to witness the birth of a perfect Saviour.
Christ quietly formed skin in Mary’s body. He was quietly born in a stable, disclosed only to rejected shepherds. He slipped away to quiet, remote places to bring about the kingdom of God. He was silent before the accusations flung at him by the religious, those who claimed to know Scripture. Then he quietly died, crying out only once for Abba. And then, in the stillness of night, in the dark hour right before dawn, he quietly arose, defeating death and sin, once and for all.
These days are hard
There is a lot of noise right now. “Therefore the prudent shall keep silent in that time,” Amos writes, “for it is an evil time” (5:13). Let’s keep silent except to proclaim the name of Jesus. Let’s speak it, and live it, and watch the clouds disappear. For his name is the way, the truth and the life, and as we declare it, he will come riding in – Love, manifest on a donkey. A humble king who has defeated death and sin, once and for all.