It’s strange to be watching from afar as the UK gradually goes into another lockdown. Snippets of news from family, gleaning information from various news channels and social media and wondering how the nation will fare over the coming weeks and months.
It’s even stranger as, while the news has been telling of heightened restrictions, we simultaneously embarked on an epic road trip from Illinois to North Carolina. A work trip with the family in tow, including all the necessary transformers, stickers books and the trusty iPad to get us from A to B. Careful and cautious, but enjoying a change of scene and the slightly increased freedoms of being further south. Staying in one hotel room brings with it restrictions of a different sort, especially noticeable as we lie as still as possible waiting for the boys to drift off to sleep in the bed next door so that we can have some sort of evening. Andrew Peterson’s ‘The Wingfeather Saga’ has been wonderful fuel for under-the-cover reading.
It makes me thankful to have the freedoms that we enjoy at the moment, but gives me an aching heart for so many family and friends feeling the impact of being pushed into isolation over Christmas. No doubt there is good reason, and there are necessities to be dealt with as this disease rampages through the country, and the world.
This last year has been one of shifting circumstances, constantly wrong-footing even the most resilient as restrictions are navigated. Amidst it all mental, emotional and spiritual health is precariously balanced, hoping to be able to keep putting one foot in front of another. Praying for the grace to keep going for however long it takes to leave the pandemic in our rearview mirror.
Whether in locked-down London or the confusing world of state-to-state variations over here, it is endlessly challenging and discouragingly flattening. But as the Advent season heads towards the climactic moment of Emmanuel, God with us, entering the world in that Bethlehem stable, I’m reminded of that God cannot be wrong-footed. The steadfast realities of God with us, whether we’re feeling strong or weak, ebullient or weary, whole or broken. A certain, unchanging hope that is held out to all at Christmas, whatever our circumstances.
I hesitated to write while there are such contrasts between here and there. But this global pandemic, a strangely universal experience whatever your geography, is not impervious to the global, universal hope held out through Christ at Christmas.