“‘Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Emmanuel,’ which is translated, ‘God with us.’” (Matthew 1:23)
Something utterly amazing will happen today. Among the gajillions of Christmas packages flying in and out of planes and trucks, an unprecedented collection of boxes will roll out across the nation—bringing the long-awaited COVID vaccine.
Precious cargo, indeed. FedEx is among those with the honors of delivering Pfizer’s delicate vials, kept at 94 degrees below zero. I worked at FedEx for nearly 10 years, and I can tell you that few shipments have ever held this much impact. Or carried this much hope.
How appropriate the vaccine will arrive just before we celebrate Christmas! Thank you, Pfizer, FedEx, President Trump, and everyone else who worked beyond warp speed to make this happen. Thank you, on behalf of my husband who works in healthcare and needs the vaccine’s protection. Thank You, God, for orchestrating all of this in your timing!
Even though most of us won’t receive inoculation for months, it’s a little glimmer of hope for the pandemic to end. Until this week, I haven’t felt much like saying “Merry Christmas”…the greeting has felt hollow after such a dark year.
Some of my loved ones are truly suffering right now. The scourge of COVID has left a tornado path of destruction. We’re weary of fear, conflicts, and political strife. With Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, I have wanted to write, “There is no peace on earth…for hate is strong and mocks the song of ‘peace on earth, good-will to men!’”1
But as I learned about the vaccine’s approval, I remembered that more—and better—news is in store for us. God is with us, at Christmas and always. His Son, Jesus, is Emmanuel. It’s the best news in history. With the most hope.
I love the ancient hymn, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.” Written in the dark ages of the 12th century, its melancholy chords and Gregorian-chant refrains fit what’s happening now:
O come, O come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel, that mourns in lonely exile here until the Son of God appear. Israel. God’s very own people, whom He nurtures, rescues, embraces. That’s us. This hymn is a plea to Christ, a cry for His help in the depths of lonely bondage, to rescue us from the diseases of this world. We need His comfort in our mourning.
O come, Thou Wisdom from on high, and order all things, far and nigh; to us the path of knowledge show, and cause us in her ways to go. In a year when all events, plans, and purposes have been thrown to the wind, we long for God’s wisdom…a return to order, normalcy…a clear path in the midst of the storm. We plead for His guidance, to shine His light on us.
O come, Desire of nations, bind all peoples in one heart and mind; bid envy, strife and quarrels cease; fill the whole world with heaven’s peace. The constant barrage of media-sparked discord is beating us down. We need Jesus to bring people back together, to calm our souls. We desire His love, breathed into our hearts so we can face the forces that threaten to smother us.
O come, Thou Dayspring, from on high, and cheer us by Thy drawing nigh; disperse the gloomy clouds of night, and death’s dark shadows put to flight. How we hunger for daylight! How we desperately need to know there is more than this life, that heaven awaits! Isn’t He truly our Savior? Hasn’t He once and for all conquered death?
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.2 God is with us. Even when we can’t see His face. Even at the darkest time of the year in our country, literally and figuratively. Even when we don’t understand the suffering and can’t see His plans. He holds our hands and catches us when we fall. He has been with us, all through this dreadful year.
What wonderful promises from the God who cares for us…who expedited a vaccine in record time…who gave His Son for us…who gives us real life in heaven. Amen. Merry Christmas!
O come, O come, Emmanuel, Jesus. Thank you for bringing us a vaccine to relieve our suffering…thank You for Your even greater hope in salvation and heaven. Call us to rejoice in You, even if we only weakly whisper it. Restore in us a true joy that will last beyond the holidays, and grant us the privilege of taking Your love to this joyless world. In Your faithful name, Amen.
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© Copyright 2020 Nancy C. Williams, Lightbourne Creative
1From Longfellow’s poem-turned-hymn, “Christmas Bells,” written in the depths of the American Civil War in 1863
2Originally written in Latin; first/fourth stanzas translated by John M. Neale (1818-1866) and second/third stanzas translated by Henry S. Coffin (1877-1954)