We are less than 10 days from a pandemic Christmas. In our region, current laws about gathering prohibit people from different households getting together. I have talked with many at my work, in stores and on walks about this. We are all trying to figure out how to approach something we have not faced previously.
Yet we have a choice about where we will direct our focus. We can look at what we cannot do. Or we can focus on what can still do. We can look at what we don’t have or what we still have.
The account of a man possessed by a demon in Mark 5 in the New Testament pointed this out to me. This guy lived a miserable life. Oppressed by a demon, he could only live among the tombs. He was too violent to dwell in a village. They had tried to restrain him with chains. Yet he broke them with the demon’s power. Mark describes his misery in Mark 5:5. “Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains, he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones.” This poor guy suffered terribly living alone and alienated from all human contact.
Then Jesus comes along and casts out the demons. The man receives a new lease on life. He wants to come with Jesus and travel with him. We see Jesus’ response in verse 19. “19 And he did not permit him but said to him, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.”
Did you catch that? “Tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” The man could have gone home and focused on the miseries of his life over the past years. Instead he followed Jesus counsel. Then this happened. Mark 5:20 - “20 And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled.”
Focusing on God’s works and mercy can renew spirits. I spent a few moments writing down several answers to each question. How much the Lord has done for me! How great the mercy He has shown me! For a few moments, my focus turned away from the problems of the day to the great work and mercy of the Lord in my life. That put my problems in perspective. The same Lord who has done much for me and had great mercy on me will help me through today’s troubles. He will also help us through the uncertainty of this Christmas. Maybe we can even live out Mark 5:20 this Christmas amidst a pandemic. We can still proclaim all the Lord has done for us and shown mercy even in 2020.
“Lord, it’s tempting to focus on what we’ve lost or can’t do this Christmas. Help us instead to see all we still have in you. Help us to remember the many past Christmas where we did enjoy multiple gatherings and events. We now see them more clearly as great gifts. Empower us to see all you have done and the mercy you continue to show. Then we can live with joy in you today.”