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Yesterday, our provincial government enacted strict new measures to slow down the spread of COVID-19. They included no social gatherings in homes for the next 4 weeks. That means we are not allowed to gather with family and friends over the Christmas season. Our government has backed up this restriction with the threat of a $1000 fine for any violators. Christmas gatherings are one of the most cherished traditions and moments for families each year. Many looked forward to them as a beacon of hope after a tough year.

This is a difficult time. Yet as I reflected on it this morning, I though about Joseph and Mary’s first “Christmas.” They were completely alone and isolated from their families. Mary’s time to give birth approached. Normally, she would expect the support of her mother and other women in the community to help her through the birth. Joseph would have the support of friends who would encourage him while waiting.

Yet they traveled to a strange town and found no room for lodging. When Mary gave birth, it was just her and Joseph. They were completely isolated from family. They had no help in case of complications. When they child was born, they could not even call with the news or send a picture. The only initial witnesses were the barn animals.
Yet the Lord God was with them. He protected them and ensured the safe delivery of baby Jesus. Then he brought others to them like the shepherds. Their family likely prayed for them. Yet even after the safe delivery of Jesus, they were further isolated because of the threat from Herod and the journey to Egypt. Eventually, the threat passed and they were able to return home.

God faithfully brought them through. God will faithfully bring us through this time. Yes, there will be difficulty, longing and some sorrow over this separation. Yet we can choose to still hope in this experience. We can first be intentional about finding different ways to connect with our loved ones. Second, we can taste the bitterness of this reality and then especially cherish the sweetness of whenever we can be together again. Third, we can ask for the Lord’s sustaining grace for one another and ourselves until we can meet again.

“O Lord, this news is tough. We know you created us for community and family. We miss gathering. Yet you sustained Joseph and Mary in their isolation. Please sustain us. We look forward to how you will transform the bitterness of today into sweetness tomorrow. Until then, please encourage us so we can encourage each other.”