Wednesday, January 19

Christmas and Covid-19

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Rt Rev Datuk Danald Jute

MANY would know the movie ‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas’. The Grinch — resident sourpuss in the fictional town of Whoville — is tired of the local community’s incessant Christmas merriment. He decides to do something to end it. So he dresses up like Santa, descends into the village of Whoville and steals all their Christmas presents, decorations, and food in hopes that the villagers will wake up and be so brokenhearted that Christmas has been robbed from them.

It doesn’t quite work out in the manner the Grinch expects or plans. The little sounds of carol singing sends his heart into a massive growth spurt, and the Grinch finds himself returning everything to the villagers — and even carving the dinner meal at the end.

So in the movie, the Grinch failed to steal Christmas! Christmas has won!

Here in the real world, we are facing our own Grinch this year, by the name ‘Covid-19’. This ‘Covid-19 Grinch’ is far more sinister and dangerous than the movie version. Much like the movie, the Covid-19 Grinch has also been threatening to steal Christmas, the way it has stolen most of 2020, by spreading its anti-cheer and anti-joy to every corner of the season.

And yet Christmas is still here! No matter how sour, sinister, or infectious the Covid-19 Grinch is, Christmas isn’t just the most wonderful time of the year – Christmas is also the most persistent. Because Christmas celebrates the persistent love of God Almighty. At Christmas, Christians give thanks to God who ‘so loved’! Yes, “God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that everyone who believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Jesus, the only Son of God, then is the centre of Christmas. Jesus is the reason for this season. Jesus, sent to this world because ‘God so loved’.

Christmas isn’t just persistent; it is pretty tough too. And Christmas is here to stay! Not because there are beautiful decorations in churches and shopping malls. Not because we can gather, albeit in small numbers, in churches for Christmas Services. Not even because those who cannot make it to church, somehow will be able to worship at home, via online live streaming.

Christmas is here to stay because Jesus, the only Son of God, the Saviour of the world truly came down from heaven and became human, born of the Virgin Mary. He was born in a dirty, smelly, ‘infected’, and dark manger.

Christmas, then, is a very special time of the year in which we celebrate and appreciate the birth of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world. He came with a message of love, hope, joy, and peace. Christ asks us to have love for one another, to be reconciled to one another, and to accept one another.

Jesus said, “I have come so that you may have life and have it more abundantly.” Giving us life – eternal life — is the first purpose for which Jesus came into the world. The second purpose is that the life promised by Christ is a source of joy and hope. By His coming, the promise of our salvation has been achieved: we have been delivered from the slavery of sin. We are now children of God and we will therefore never wander in darkness but always in the source of Light: Jesus Christ Himself.

Each one of us has been entrusted with a special gift, a sacred responsibility: to show others how the mystery of God is among us. We are called to go out into the world and share the message of God’s love for all mankind.

In this season, we do our best to reach out and be a blessing others, especially the last, the least, and the lost. Indeed, the Covid-19 Grinch has sent a shudder of fear through our society about interacting with others. We must not allow this Grinch to stop us from spreading and sharing God’s love. And what better time to do so than this Christmas season — invite Jesus into your life, your home. Share God’s love and care by reaching out to the poor and needy. Lift up the downtrodden and be the voice of the voiceless and marginalised. Remember, Jesus came to take side with the poor and needy; being born in a dirty, smelly, ‘infected’ dark manger.

While our Christmas celebration might not be quite the same as the Christmases of yesteryears, it is the same old Christmas! It is about God ‘so loved’. May the love and joy of Christmas penetrate our hearts and souls, so that we may become true peacemakers, loving others as we love ourselves, and love God above all things. May God continue to shower this our state and nation with His peace, mercy, care, and love.

Let me end by reminding you of the last and most important lesson from the Grinch, the movie, when Grinch thought to himself, “Maybe Christmas doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas … perhaps … means a little bit more!”

Wishing you a Merry Christmas and Grace-filled New Year 2021.

 

The Rt Rev Datuk Danald Jute is Bishop of the Anglican Church in Sarawak and Brunei.