Earlier this week, I was in a Zoom meeting for a committee I serve on as a part of the Association of Anglican Musicians. As each of us checked in and shared how we were doing, I was surprised to hear that two of my colleagues in this group were quarantining because of a positive case of COVID within their parishes. (I believe these are both places that, unlike Atonement in the Diocese of Chicago, have continued to have some very limited worship in person.) Because there was a positive case at church, the priests had to quarantine for a time and then be tested; you can imagine the impact this has in a single-priest parish. I believe that both of my colleagues are well – in fact, I have just heard that one has tested negative for the virus – but sitting in that meeting, I felt something shift in me. Suddenly, this virus felt uncomfortably close to home.
For some of us at Atonement, this virus is already as close to home as we can stand. Some of us have had cases in our families. Some of us have had friends test positive. Some of us have had loved ones hospitalized, and some of us have had family or friends die. Our faith community has borne all of these hardships. Nonetheless, for many of us, something is shifting in these last days of the year. The virus is starting to feel closer and closer to home.
I write this not to frighten you, but to point out something that might not be obvious: the virus should feel close to home. As followers of Jesus Christ, we should be aware of suffering in the world. We should let it in, we should allow it to affect us. When we allow the pain of the world to touch our own lives, we are more likely to reach out with words or actions that demonstrate our love. When we connect to some of the anxiety and uncertainty of this time, we are more likely to step outside of ourselves to help those in need. When we let the news of this virus break our hearts, we are far more likely to invite God in to heal them.
This is not to say that we should become martyrs to the suffering this virus has caused. But we should be witnesses to the compassionate heart of Christ, the heart that wants us to see each other as bound together by the enduring ties of our baptism. Advent is a time to be reminded of that connection. For in Advent, we wait. We wait, huddled together in the growing darkness, wait for a vaccine, wait for a return to the fullness of life and for the coming light of Jesus Christ. We sit, and we wait, and we mourn and serve and celebrate together – all of us close to the heart of God. All of us close to home.