God Comes Close
The Rt. Rev. Chris Giesler
- Jeremiah 31:7-14
- Ephesians 1:3-14
- John 1: 1-18
We live in extraordinary times. While we are trying to get back to something a bit more like normal, Covid is still hanging around, making us second guess every sniffle that we might get or every time we are in a room where someone coughs. We want to go to a concert, we want to gather with family, we want to be close to those that we love, but we still have this Covid bug looming over our heads.
But even as we are asked to be mindful of social distancing, our texts today remind us of God’s proximity to us no matter our circumstance.
In our text from Jeremiah, the prophet is calling God’s people home from their exile to return home. Here Jeremiah says: “See, I am going to bring them from the land of the north, and gather them from the farthest parts of the earth, among them the blind and the lame, those with child and those in labor, together; a great company, they shall return here. With weeping they shall come, and with consolations I will lead them back, I will let them walk by brooks of water, in a straight path in which they shall not stumble; for I have become a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn.”
Where there has been separation, a reunion will happen. God has always been with them, but now they will be back home in God’s presence. This pandemic has produced exiles of its own, and just when we thought it was almost over, right now, we can’t see the end. But do not worry, God is with us now, and we will taste a better reunion in the future. Again, listen to Jeremiah: “Then shall the young women rejoice in the dance, and the young men and the old shall be merry. I will turn their mourning into joy, I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow.”
From his letter to the Ephesians, Paul reminds us that we are more than just a number or another soul in the sea of many; we have been brought into God’s family. Through Jesus Christ, we are God’s children according to God’s good pleasure. As Paul says: “In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory.” Truly words of hope for our day and time. While we might be separated from others, we are chosen to be in God’s family.
The Gospel lesson from John reminds us what Christmas truly means. While John does not give us a birth narrative, these poetic words give us the meaning. In John’s words: “But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 13who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. 14And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.”
Did you catch the theme of being children again? WE BELONG! WE ARE INCLUDED! These are words that need to be spoken into the darkness of the world today. We have a mission of being a church and a people who are called to include others despite our pandemic reality.
In 2020 and 2021, the Board of World Mission extended $200 grants to congregations here in North America to purchase Zoom memberships and hardware upgrades to broadcast their worship services. Two years ago, most of our congregations would have never thought about putting their worship services online, but now they do! Even as they have been worshiping in person, they are still maintaining their online presence because they can include more and more people. In one congregation that I am currently working with, a long-time member found that she needed to move nearer to her grown children. While this is a happy reunion, it is more than a thousand miles away from the congregation she has called home for years. But now, she can join the congregation each Sunday morning to join in worship and check in with all her friends. SHE BELONGS!
The love of God that comes to us in the miracle of Christmas means that we all belong, we are all home, we are all part of God’s family.