Even prior to the Premier’s announcement of a lockdown today, Christmas and New Year’s, for many people, was going to look much different than the season of faith, family and merriment that many people often associate with the season. The lockdown announced for Boxing Day will make this an even more difficult season for many.
To put this in perspective (and provide encouragement) and to remember that Christmas is about Christ—that He is all we need for a blessed Christmas or to live a blessed life in the face of trials—let us turn to the first Christmas story to contemplate just how difficult it would have been for Joseph and Mary and how Christ made all the difference.
Though they had no Christmas by which to evaluate their lived experience, the first Christmas was no easy time for Mary and Joseph. Notwithstanding the shame the couple probably faced because of the pre-marital pregnancy, they had to travel away from their comfort zone and support network, from Nazareth to Bethlehem. While not a long distance by modern standards, it was far enough by ancient standards. We might think that because Joseph was “of the house and lineage of David” that he would have had close family to call in on. However, Luke’s silence on this matter leads us to believe that Joseph’s roots were more connected to Nazareth than they were to Bethlehem; otherwise some relative probably would have made room for them. As it stood, homes and inns full because of the census, the couple were all alone in a foreign town and had to take shelter in a stable, “because there was no place for them in the inn.” (Lk 2:7). Bad travel plans, a grotty motel—not to mentioned being 9 months pregnant—it all seemed as if their stay would be a miserable one. But the cherish story of the nativity is far from unhappy because Jesus made all the difference.
Trusting God’s providence in the situation, looking to Him, Joseph and Mary were pleasantly surprise that first Christmas. The promised One of old, revealed as the expected child through prophecies, dreams and visions, finally arrived. The birth of any child has the effect of bringing joy to troubled circumstances; how much greater must have their joy been to welcome the Christ child!? Then unexpected visitors dropped in and told of angelic choirs rejoicing at the Saviour’s birth. God was encouraging the couple. Mary treasured and “pondered these things in her heart” as the shepherds went away “glorifying and praising God.” It is amazing how faith in God’s providence and the presence of Christ can bring joy to otherwise discouraging circumstances!
The Christmas holidays of 2020–21 will certainly be different, but they needn’t be as grim as Satan may tempt us to think. May it be that God is stripping away all of the distractions and adornments of the holidays: goodies, good company, traditions, etc, etc, so that we might focus exclusively on Jesus? As we worship Christ at Christmas may we be filled with all the joy and wonder Joseph and Mary were on that first bleak mid-winter Christmas night, and may we be a light in the darkness.
One of the undesirable consequences of Covid-19 for many churches and Christians has been the infrequency of which Communion, the Lord’s Supper or the Eucharist has been remembered, celebrated, observed or taken.
How regularly should I taken Communion and why?
Some Christians take it weekly, others monthly (like us—the first a.m. service and third p.m. service), some quarterly and some even yearly.
What was the practice of the early Church?
Sadly, both ordinances of Baptism and Communion can be undervalued, however, below are 9 reasons why we ought to observe the Lord’s Supper and do so regularly:
Covid-19 has been a challenging time for many visible churches.
During lockdown many closed completely, some for want of means of continuing virtually (etc), while others persevered into varied forms of creative ministry, gathering and worship. We continued to hold our worship services through live-stream, Life Groups and leadership meetings via Skype and Zoom and Facetime and communicated congregationally through our print and e-newsletter (along with many other means).
From June 12 places of worship in Ontario were permitted by the government emergency order to emerge from the lockdown returning to physical worship services at 30% building capacity. We safely re-opened our morning and evening services on the Lord’s Day, June 14, also continuing our live-stream for those at risk or still uncomfortable; a few other local churches did the same not long after. However, there are many, many visible churches that remain closed with all or most of their ministries shut down. Many of them cite health concerns for this, which is something genuine to assess, however, “where there is a will there is a way” (i.e. if you have a reason to meet and a purpose to exist you will labour to find a safe means to accomplish it. See also: 2 Ti 1:7). A participant of one such church confided in me his dismay at their church’s decision wondering if anyone would return come September?
You see, if something stops for a week because of a snow storm, it is not terribly life changing, but the moment you speak of ceasing to do something for weeks and months and seasons, it becomes habit forming and life altering (for good or ill).
This raises two important and interrelated points:
ONE. If a church’s god is the only God, perfect, almighty, all-wise and most holy, sovereign, loving, gracious, merciful, long-suffering, abounding in truth and goodness, the rewarder of those who seek him and the judge of all who don’t (I’m referencing the 2nd London Baptist Confession, 2.1) and if you know this God through faith in Jesus Christ then YES, absolutely, you have a reason to bring Him the corporate worship He has commanded and to fellowship together with other believers. Nothing, not persecution, or want or pandemic will stop you from doing this. If this is NOT the case, then naturally why would you gather to worship a God who you think is not really real or worthy, or immanent or knowable or known by you?
TWO. If a church, made up of redeemed or purchased people—bought by the blood of the lamb—has been commanded by their Saviour to publish Good News to all people, a message of repentance and transformation, to glorify Him in all they do, a life lived in gratitude to their King, then YES we have a purpose to exist for we have a Great Commission to fulfil and God to glorify. If this is NOT the case, if church is only a social club or a good works hobby, couldn’t I spend my time better somewhere else?
IF you answered yes to the above questions but are still not gathering and labouring as part of your local church, then appeal to your church leadership, grant leave to gather with a small handful in your home or outside, or temporarily worship with another church.
IF you are still watching the live-stream from home and not personally and physically worshipping and serving and don’t have a legitimate health risk (i.e. you’re going to the grocery store, shopping, eating out and visiting family but not participating in your church) then it is time to lay down your excuses and do so. Live-streaming is a great outreach and it was and can be a short-term substitute, but it is a long-term compromise from the real thing; don’t grow comfortable with it.
Among many other things Covid-19 is affecting on the church and spiritual landscape of our land is the separation from the wheat and the chaff; with some churches being pruned and others experiencing growth. The churches that will continue post-Covid will have these two things in common: a reason to meet and a purpose to exist.
Author: Chris Crocker
Pastor, historian and beekeeper.
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