Second Sunday after Christmas, Year B
Lectionary Scripture: Jeremiah 31:7-14 (NRSV)
I love to get away and visit new places. There is something special about finding the beauty in different places and cultures whether that be natural landmarks like Yellowstone or the Grand Canyon or human-made architecture such as the Space Needle or the Washington Monument. I like trying food from different regions and finding local restaurants that offer unique flavors native to that area. But even on vacation, I will eventually tire from all of the "new" and "different." Even when it is fun and exciting, I will find that I'm ready to go home.
Lots of people have experienced this. Sometimes it can apply to people visiting your home. As an amateur genealogist, I have read old stories of ancestors that took extended stays with their kinfolk. My first thought was "how did they keep their jobs?" These were not wealthy people that didn't need to work. Sometimes with regards to our relatives, we hear the phrase, "I'm glad to see them come and glad to see them leave." This doesn't mean that we don't appreciate the visit but it has more to do with the idea of getting back to normal.
Human beings function well with routine. We do well when things go as expected. While describing something as "routine" often has a negative connotation, people actually thrive with a normal structure. There is less stress involved. We sleep better. Our diet is better. We are more likely to get regular exercise. We are also more likely to tend to our spiritual lives with prayer, Bible reading and worship.
So as we see the advent of vaccine distribution, we can anticipate getting back to normal after the worldwide disruption of the coronavirus. But what will this "normal" look like? Our pause has been going on for so long that we may find that some of what we would classify as a regular part of our lives is not returning.
As we begin life post-COVID-19, there are a lot of things we'll enjoy doing again. Simply interacting with others without the worry of "am I going to make them sick" or "are they going to make me sick" would be helpful. Talking to people in person while seeing the entirety of their faces will be healing for us. Singing the hymns of our faith while standing shoulder to shoulder will give us a lift that we may not know we needed until we actually get to do it.
|This is what I missed and look|
forward to its return.
As we look at the reading from Jeremiah, we see a good word to a people who were in exile. They were a people who had known the stress of being invaded by a foreign military and seen loved ones killed. Then they were forcibly removed from the land they knew. These were the people who wrote in Psalm 137:4, "How could we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?" I like in verse 9 of today's scripture where it states, "With weeping they shall come, and with consolations I will lead them back" indicating that this is an emotional return where support is needed. Weeping comes when we joyfully recognize we are home. Weeping also comes when we recognize and confront the turmoil that we've endured. We've been through a real thing and it has been stressful.
I feel more akin to Jeremiah than I did before the pandemic. I've certainly had it easier than he did. We as a people in the United States have not experienced the same level of trauma that they went through. But for what we have known, it has been uncomfortable. And for some, it has been just as devastating. It is not our preferred reality.
So what do we want? What should life look like?
According to Jeremiah, it looks like a watered garden where no one languishes. Both young and old know joy. Life should normally let us trade our sorrows for gladness. This should be a model for our church. If we share this dream, we can make it real.
We'll continue to examine this theme as we worship online together on Sunday. We are continuing to hear of an increasing number of positive cases within our congregation so please be safe. We are nearing the finish line and we will get through this!
Picture by Trey Witzel of the 11 pm Christmas Eve service at First United Methodist Church of Edmond from 2018. Used with permission. Maybe in 2021, even the two front rows of this late service will be filled!
All scripture quoted is from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.