Christmas in a Pandemic
Christmas of 2020 is surely different from that Christmas of 1914, when millions of people died as casualties of war. In 2020, globally (and counting) about 1.2 million people have died as casualties of an invisible enemy: the COVID-19 virus. In Indonesia, the virus has killed more than 15,200 people in the past eight months. And the spread of the virus shows no signs of abating soon.
The pandemic has disrupted, even destroyed, many aspects of our lives. It has brought havoc on our economy, caused unprecedented job loss, disrupted social relations, church services, ministries, and many people have died.
Another less noted result of the pandemic is the massive increase in the number of people suffering from mental health issues. A recent survey from the Commission of Research and Development of PGI (Indonesia Council of Churches) conducted from early June 2020, showed that 73.1% respondents experienced mild depression, 21.9% suffered from moderate depression, and 3.5% indicated severe depression.
It’s not uncommon to hear people say the pandemic has left them feeling drained and exhausted, calling out to God: “How long, oh Lord, will this pandemic last?” Our cry reminds us of David in Psalm 13, when he cried out to the Lord in desperation, “How long?” He repeated this cry four times! (Psalm 13:1-2)
A Light in Dark Times
David felt so hopeless. Verses 1-2 mention three reasons why he was overwhelmed. One, he felt that God had forsaken him and had hidden His face from him. Two, because of this, he felt anxious in his soul and sorrow in his heart daily. And three, his enemies exalted over him. David’s situation seemed desperate.
Are you feeling hopeless like David? In our current situation, during the pandemic, some of us may feel like God has forsaken and hidden His face from humankind, including us. This part of Psalm feels like it hits so close to home.
It’s easier to endure difficult times, even suffering, when we know the end is in sight. But, what if these difficulties show no sign of ending anytime soon?
This Christmas, with the pandemic still raging, the Bible invites us to pray like David. David asked God to consider and hear him, and he asked God to enlighten his eyes (v. 3). He knew that life’s difficult reality could darken his soul. That is why he called out to God, “Give light to my eyes!” We all need God’s light to illuminate our hearts and fill them with His knowledge and wisdom.
The apostle Paul knew the importance of our eyes being enlightened by God. This was what he prayed for the Ephesian Christians, “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people” (Ephesians 1:17-18).
We need God’s grace to enlighten our eyes so that our spirituality does not sleep the sleep of death (v. 3). Our eyes need to see the light of His wisdom. That is why Paul encouraged the saints of Ephesians to, “Awake, you who sleep, arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light” (Ephesians 5:14).
The challenges we face during this pandemic tend to dim our spiritual eyes and slowly cause our spiritual life to wither. But, we must not let it happen.
Let us learn from David. What did he do? He called out to God, “But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing the LORD’S praise, for he has been good to me” (Psalm 13:5-6).
What a wise spiritual decision! Even though his circumstances caused him to cry out to God for relief, David remained faithful and rejoiced in the salvation of the Lord. May Psalm 13:5-6 be our key to spiritual awakening during the pandemic.
Despite our difficult circumstances, God is faithful. He will never leave nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). He invites us to cry out to Him and to cast all our worries and anxieties on Him. He knows everything we are going through.
Jesus Christ, whose birth we celebrate on Christmas, knew poverty, suffering, betrayal, and humiliation. He willingly gave His life on the cross, and right now He is interceding for His people and suffering along with us during this pandemic.
Because of Him, we too can experience some respite and fellowship this Christmas and just like the soldiers in World War 1, we remember His birth and the hope this gives humankind.
Michael Dhimas Anugrah is the Youth Pastor at Millennial Christian Fellowship, Indonesia. He is currently enrolled at Oxford Center for Religion and Public Life, UK.
Photo by D A V I D S O N L U N A on Unsplash