Bring on Christmas: The Sufferers' Holiday

Jesus Came to Put an End to Fear and Oppression

Mark Oshinskie visited his elderly aunt and uncle the other day. They’re both ninety-three. While he was there, a younger couple, both sixty-something, dropped in to bring Christmas greetings from their church. He wrote about it in a Substack post he called “The Gift of the Covid-Fearing Magi”:

Yesterday, I visited my 93 year old aunt and uncle. They told me that someone from their church had telephoned them and, during my visit, church members would stop by to give them a Christmas package. After over a year of only drive-up or Zoom “gatherings,” their small church only recently resumed in-person worship. As my aunt and uncle spend most of their time in their apartment, having a church member visit them face-to-face sounded like laudable, charitable, life-normalizing outreach.

In the mid-afternoon, the doorbell rang. My uncle welcomed in a sixty-something married couple. The visitors wore masks and kept their jackets on, so not exactly a face-to-face, relaxed, normalizing interaction.

Mark has been writing lately about the pandemic – not exactly of the virus, but rather the pandemic of fear – and he makes some observations about the visitors from church:

The masked Magi stayed for only about ten minutes, standing the whole time. During that span, they referred to “Covid” several times, saying things like “Since ‘The Pandemic(!)’ started, we almost never go out. We only go to the grocery store, and only when we know there aren’t many other shoppers. And we always wear our masks.”

Covid this and Covid that. No mention of Jesus nor angels. Nor even eggnog.

The visitors left his aunt and uncle a bag of homemade cookies and six greeting cards, presumably from other members of their church:

One was a sign of the times: a cardstock photo—passing as a Christmas card—of increasingly common twins beneath a Happy Holidays heading. The remaining cards had winter motifs. One, from the visitors themselves, featured a poinsettia front with a standard, printed message inside … “may the New Year bring more happiness, and less Covid.”

And then Mark asks a very simple question:

"Are these tidings of comfort and joy?"

Indeed. Are they?

For the record, I don’t get sucked into the so-called “Merry Christmas” wars. If people want to say Happy Holidays, that’s fine with me. I appreciate poinsettia cards along with nativity ones. But these were fellow church members, apparently visiting on behalf of the church. Is “may the New Year bring more happiness and less Covid” the best the church has to offer?

I don’t think so.

GriefShare is a grief support program that’s been around for some time. In a special segment on surviving the holidays after loss, one of the GriefShare counselors calls Christmas “the sufferers’ holiday.” If that strikes you as odd, here’s what they mean by that. We suffer pain, loss, and illness in the world because sin is in the world – but Jesus came to deal with the sin problem once and for all. He came precisely because we were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd, unable to solve our biggest problem on our own.

A traditional Advent hymn, taken from the prophecy of Isaiah about the coming Messiah some 700 years before his birth, opens this way:

“Comfort, comfort all my people; speak of peace,” so says our God.

“Comfort those who sit in darkness, groaning from their sorrows’ load.

Speak to all Jerusalem of the peace that waits for them;

Tell them that their sins I cover, that their warfare now is over.”

“Tell them that their sins I cover, that their warfare now is over.” Jesus came to make peace between rebellious humans (news flash: that’s all of us) and God. That should be a message that overrides fear as a controlling factor in life. Mark continued:

When the Bible mentions “fear,” it’s typically preceded or followed by “not,” e.g., “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,” etc. The original Wise Men were badasses who made an arduous, God-trusting journey despite being trailed by Herod’s hit men.

Do masked, agoraphobic visitors convey a message of tranquility, faith in God’s protection or salvation?

He doesn’t think so, and neither do I. He concludes:

If God sent his son so believers may have eternal life, why all the Covid fear among believers? Fear not. Bring unmasked news of Peace on Earth, and in Heaven thereafter, to people of goodwill.

And to that, at the risk of sounding like a Bible-thumper, I say, Yes, yes, and Amen! Honestly, who is going to bring tidings of comfort and joy if not the church?

He came to solve our biggest problem, and he will return when the Father says it’s time. He is faithful, and he will do it. In the meantime, he has said that we not only need not live in fear, but we should comfort one another with his words.

Here are a few tidings of comfort and joy from Jesus:

  • “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.” ~ John 14:1.
  • “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled; do not be afraid.” ~ John 14:27.
  • “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in Me will live, even though he dies.” ~ John 11:25.

And for one more, here is one of the most beloved readings of the Christmas narrative of modern times. Enjoy, take heart, then go and spread the fear-dispelling news:

 is Deputy Editor of Salvo and writes on apologetics and matters of faith.

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