All too many faces this Christmas seemed tinged with fear. While the year itself will ignobly bear the stigma of heartache and challenges for generations to come, people’s anguish seems deeper than even COVID-19.
Despair and dread reflect a condition of the soul that circumstances unexpectedly (and undesirably) reveal. As long as the illusion of wrapping one’s arm around a problem remains, a false sense of serenity seems enough to keep trepidation at bay.
For millennia, lives regularly bear great uncertainty during each day; it’s the human condition. The virus, however, allowed the human condition to be exposed simultaneously in every human being at once. Although history records numerous plagues, none have ever swept the entire race while the whole planet watched in real time.
The wealthiest and most powerful looked just as vulnerable as the poorest and weakest. Masks, ironically, starkly drew attention to our common frailty. While the virus showed our physical vulnerability, it also exposed our character defects. Consider the duplicitous political figures greedily consuming the liberty of others while living a life of privilege at the expense of the suffering. When the media corporations turn cameras and microphones away from truth to promote agendas, the corruptible human heart is repeatedly revealed. The founding fathers established our nation’s government with our weaknesses in mind. Why else would we need such elaborate checks and balances?
Furthermore, the virus exposed a deeper feebleness. In the eagerness to avoid dying, too many stopped living. Our fear allowed a vacuum for predators who thrive on the freedom of others. Are we doomed to suffer again at the ideas of those who think they can achieve a collective better life for others if in control? The rubble of entire cultures serves as a teaching tool for those willing to look, but small minds think only of their own desires and, once again, society must deal with those who consider their intentions more than their consequences. In the face of mass trauma and affliction, there remains no shortage of those who would subjugate rather than serve. More than just the virus, it seems our nation’s collective unease comes not only from the existence of wolves in sheep’s clothing, but sadly with the presence of all too many sheep in sheep’s clothing.
Warriors fight. Patriots devote. The courageous live robustly in the face of adversity. Martin Luther King, Jr. stated, “If a man has not discovered something that he will die for, he isn’t fit to live.”
Healthiness and pain-free existence is a fool’s dream that disease, injury, or time will inevitably disrupt. A life of meaning, purpose, and consequence does not require the lack of sorrows, loss, and even sickness. One could even say that the fragility of our lives provides an exquisite value to each moment.
In the midst of some of history’s harshest moments, there exists those who loomed large on a battlefield or a prison. In the face of overwhelming obstacles, our minds can recall inspiring figures who chose to do more than exist, and crystalized each moment into significance. What did they know? Who did they know?
Is “the state” in whatever purest form designed by the human mind the best we can hope to attain?
Hardly. No political party ever provides the courage to face death or even affliction.
Certainty remains up for grabs and “uncertain times” now defines us. So, how do we live while not dying?
Simply put, we trust in the one who guarantees certainty. This Christmas, we celebrate that God accomplished what He said he would do. He took on human form to redeem that which was lost. There was no other way. He became like us to make it possible to be with Him. The purpose of the nativity was the cross.
As we celebrate the birth of Christ that led to His cross, we can breathe freely during our uncertainty and fear— knowing that our scared hands are held by His scarred hands.
That knowledge gives us the courage to step from not dying, to indeed living.