Hope for Living: Amid the unpredictable and unexpected, we often discover the amazing

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By Ethan Maple

We find ourselves on the cusp of Christmas — a quarantined Christmas at that.

OK, maybe we are not all quarantined, but COVID certainly continues to wreak havoc on our community. No matter where you fall on the spectrum of how threatening this virus is or how comfortable you are out in public, we will all feel the effects of COVID this holiday season.

This Christmas will be like none other in history. However, I believe we can connect a few dots between our current situation and that of the very first Christmas. The stories of Mary and Joseph, the shepherds and angels, and the wisemen can still reveal a few lessons for today.

There is no question that our plans this Christmas are going to be disrupted. Mary and Joseph know a thing or two about disrupted plans. Mary and Joseph had their life planned, but their perfect engagement was disrupted with Angel informed Mary she was having God’s child.

No doubt their birth plan was also disrupted as they traveled to Bethlehem, only to find there was no place for them in the inn. I know we are all exhausted from pivoting this way and that from disrupted plans, but I also know that miraculous things can happen when plans get disrupted.

Being socially distanced from one another is affecting our mental and emotional health. The shepherds found themselves spending a great deal of time by themselves. They were alone in the fields watching their flocks by night, and in many ways cast aside by society. It was amid their isolation that the Angel came to them with the announcement of Christ’s birth, and God used these cast aside shepherds to share the Good News.

I know that our isolation can feel heavy at times as it crushes our spirits, but I also know that God can still come to us when we feel alone and use us for great things.

With continual COVID updates it is hard to know what the future may bring. The Wisemen did not have it all figured out either; in fact, it was probably scary to set off on such a long journey without knowing where they were going or how exactly to get there. And yet, they adventured forward, having faith that their journey would lead them to something amazing.

That is exactly what happened as they bowed before Jesus and offered him their gifts. I know that an unknown future can be scary, but I also know that God will use that journey to show us something incredible.

It would be easy to label this “The Worst Christmas Ever,” but I’m not sure that would be very accurate. Some of the frustrations we are experiencing today were happening that very first Christmas. Let me encourage you, God’s word tends to reveal new things to us no matter how familiar we are with the story.

Walk through this Christmas with open eyes, to see what God is revealing to you in this season. And remember, even as we may feel quarantined this Christmas, Christmas is far from quarantined as it continues to unleash its power of hope, love, joy and peace into the world.

Ethan Maple is pastor of Mt. Comfort Church. This weekly column is written by local clergy members. Send comments to [email protected].