It’s been said over and over again: We’re living through uncertain and unprecedented times.
This year has been so different from what we might ever have hoped or imagined. For many, it’s come with immense challenge, grief and pain. For others, it’s been a time of rest, reflection and possibility. There’s no doubt this year will shape us indelibly.
As we draw nearer to Christmas, we wonder what this season will look like in our COVID-19 world. While lockdown measures have been reinstated across Europe, in Australia, strict restrictions have recently been eased. But there’s no doubt this Christmas will be different, wherever we are.
After a year of isolation from family, friends, church and wider community, where we’ve often felt emotionally or physically limited, locked in and locked down, many of us long for the promises of Christmas: hope, joy, peace and love in our communities and world. While most of us have either experienced or witnessed manifestations of anxiety, fear, sorrow or worry during this pandemic, we’ve also seen radical demonstrations of love that reject the mentality of self-preservation and seek first the good of others. While we have been closed in, love certainly hasn’t been; God’s love for us and through us is not and will never be in lockdown.
God’s limitless love
Throughout the Bible, we read again and again of God’s limitless love for humanity and His constant presence with us.
“Your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies.” (Psalm 36:5)
“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea.” (Psalm 46:1-2)
“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)
As Christians, we know that all people are loved relentlessly and unconditionally by the Creator of the universe and Author of love Himself. However, in the midst of a pandemic when many of us are feeling isolated and restricted, sometimes we need to remind ourselves that God’s love for us is as strong as ever and that He loves unceasingly, without measure or restriction.
Love demonstrated deeply
These timeless truths can take even deeper root in our hearts as we see God’s love working through His people to meet the great needs of our world. Throughout the pandemic, we’ve seen love demonstrated deeply, intentionally and practically. We’ve seen simple and radical acts of kindness. And again and again, we’ve seen comfort and self-interest sacrificially abandoned for the good of neighbours, both known and unknown.
We’ve shown love to the elderly, the immunocompromised and those with chronic health conditions by following social distancing and mask-wearing recommendations to curb the spread of the virus among those most vulnerable to it. In the same way, we’ve shown love to our healthcare workers by reducing their likelihood of exposure to COVID-19.
We’ve shown love to the hungry, the thirsty and those without homes by donating food relief and providing and advocating for shelter. We’ve shown love to those who live from pay-check to pay-check by refusing to panic buy staples so there is enough for all. We’ve shown love to our global neighbours by donating to organisations actively seeking to assist those in most need across the world.
As we’ve rejoiced with our neighbours who have rejoiced, and mourned with those who’ve mourned, we’ve loved. As we’ve gathered for church and Bible studies online rather than in person, we’ve loved. As we’ve been intentional voices of hope in our conversations in person and on social media, we’ve loved. As we’ve shared reliable and credible information, we’ve loved. As we’ve sewed and given masks, we’ve loved.
We’ve loved our families by spending more time with them, our friends through letters, phone calls and online catch-ups, and our physical neighbours by checking in on them more regularly. We’ve loved our local communities by spending money intentionally at small local businesses to support them while they’ve been unable to operate as usual, by setting up community pantries, and by drawing encouraging chalk messages on the pavement to brighten the day of passersby.
In our prayers, too, we continue to love as we bring the needs of our hurting world before our Lord. We pray for the vulnerable, the sick and the mourning, for the hungry and the poor, for those who have lost jobs and dreams, for those working in healthcare and on the front lines of this pandemic, and for those in positions of leadership both at home and abroad.
Every one of these acts of care, self-restraint and generosity reminds us that love is not and will never be in lockdown. Every one of these examples encourages us and spurs us on to continue being the hands and feet of Jesus in a world that desperately needs Him.
As we come closer to Christmas, let’s continue to notice God’s love displayed in vast array in our unsettled world. Filled and fuelled by this Great Love, let’s continue to love others so radically that they begin to wonder why.