As the pandemic hit New York City in the middle of March, I thought this crisis would be a blip in our lives, a few weeks at the most before we got back to normal. Now, as we come to the end of the year, I’m sure like me, you find yourself bracing for the dark winter months ahead—not just the cold days and darker evenings, but how to cope with the gloominess of the continuing pandemic. Surviving the next few months seems to be the only choice. Yet, this season is also a reminder that we can pray and live with expectation and hope because we do have light in the darkness.
As I write this from my apartment in Manhattan, COVID cases are rising again in New York. Hospitals in many other states across the US are overwhelmed with patients. England and countries across Europe are in lockdown. It’s not just the spread or or fear of contracting the virus that is alarming. Thanksgiving and Christmas are normally full of family get-togethers and celebrations. Instead seeing those we love is fraught with difficulties and risks, and is actively discouraged. My husband and I have canceled our Thanksgiving trip to visit our daughter in Los Angeles because of the Californian quarantine rules. And we are unsure if my twin boys in England can get home for Christmas because of the restrictions, even though they are American citizens.
In my determination to not let the circumstances overwhelm me with despondency, it is through the familiar Christmas story that I find confidence, and you can too. There may be no Christmas Eve candle-lit services this year to remind us Jesus came as the Light of the World, but God is still with us.
I read these words the other morning: My fellow believers, when it seems as though you are facing nothing but difficulties see it as an invaluable opportunity to experience the greatest joy that you can! For you know that when your faith is tested it stirs up power within you to endure all things. James 1:2-3 TPT
Does it seem like you have faced problem after problem this year? In the middle of unusual circumstances, we have a chance to find glimmers of hope and focus on those things, however small, that bring us joy.
As I write this, my phone is pinging with notification after notification as my twin boys send text messages in our family chat about how the vaccine will be rolled out. We may not be able to see each other, but we can still be in contact and hope is on the horizon with regard to the vaccine. What small thing can you focus on that will bring you joy?
Has your faith been tested this year? When our faith is shaky, the verse above remind us we do have the strength to patiently tolerate and bear with what we’re facing. How? Because the Light of the World came to be with us and through him we have the presence and power of the Holy Spirit within us to help us stand firm.
The Bible passages we read over the Christmas season remind us that the world 2,000 years ago faced its own “darkness.” Zechariah, Elizabeth, Mary, Simeon, Anna, the shepherds and others waited with hope for the darkness to end.
Zechariah who had endured the previous months unable to speak, filled to overflowing with the Holy Spirit, prophesied:
The splendor light of heaven’s glorious sunrise
is about to break upon us in holy visitation,
all because the merciful heart of our God is so very tender.
The word from heaven will come to us
with dazzling light to shine upon those
who live in darkness, near death’s dark shadow.
And he will illuminate the path that leads to the way of peace.”
Luke 1:78-79 TPT
If your days have been harrowing recently, if you have experienced the distress of losing a loved one, if the way forward seems unclear, then these words are a reminder that God is with you.
Isaiah, as he foretold the birth of Jesus, reminds us we can be glad because: there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress.
And Jesus brought to reality Isaiah’s words:
the people living in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death
a light has dawned.
It’s easy to skip over reading these words because they are so familiar to us. Instead, use this season to tell God you are relying on him, you are trusting in him, you are holding onto him because he is with you through this pandemic. He brings relief to your spiritual, emotional, or physical suffering. He brings peace in the middle of the chaos. He gives joy to those who are suffering.
Use the words below, paraphrased from the Psalms, as prayers today and throughout the week to live with expectation and hope.
You, Lord God, will keep my lamp burning — you will give me strength during this season; you will turn my darkness into light. (based on Psalm 18:28)
Lord God, thank you for your light that shines in the darkness, the darkness I am facing cannot overpower me because you are with me. (based on John 1:5)