Well, the Advent and Christmas seasons have arrived, and this year promises to be a little different from previous years. The whole world seems to be caught between Christmas and the Coronavirus. Will the governmental grinches allow Christmas? Who in the Whoville knows? If Christmas is allowed, will the Whos in Whoville be allowed to be loud and to gather or to feast or to sing? What about the Whos who will not be allowed to travel to Whoville? Will those Whos at least get to be on First, or is such a hope simply off-base? How would the good Dr. Seuss diagnose the situation, a situation characterized by confusing, constantly changing rules, regulations, recommendations, political recriminations, and cannabis recreations? Speaking of which, why is the media abuzz about the high time which the Governor of California had at dinner in a French Laundromat with indoor-outdoor carpeting?

In times like these, people need to turn to their Bibles. The Bible tells the story of Joseph, not that Joseph but the other one. Joseph was a nice Jewish boy who was engaged to a young Jewish girl who claimed to have seen angels and got herself mysteriously pregnant by the “Holy Spirit.” Quite understandably, Joseph thought it best to get out of that relationship before things got really cuckoo. Sadly, poor Joseph himself started hearing voices and seeing angels. Then, on what seemed like a bad trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem, in the St. Nick of time Joseph came to his census, and that is what really counts. Suffering from hallucinations meant that both Joseph and his princess bride would not be accepted by the inn crowd. So, they were forcibly “social distanced” in an animal shelter where the baby Jesus was born into stable family environment.

In “normal” times, Christmas is stressful enough. One needs to write Santa, buy and wrap presents, procure and prepare the food; all done in the pursuit of gathering with loved ones whom we often do not like. Somewhere along the line we might go to church, if we have time and if we have not had too much to drink.

This year, however, things will be different, but no one really knows how different. Will “social distancing” prevent Santa from delivering his wares? Will the reindeer herd be culled if they become infected? If so, will Amazon jump in the breach and wrap and deliver the presents for Santa? Following the hoarded paper products out the door, will the shops be pilfered of poultry, potatoes, and pumpkin pie? If so, will we at least be spared having to mingle with our less than liked loved ones? Thank God that the liquor stores and “dispensaries” will be open (and that most churches will be closed). It gets so annoying when the Spirit of the latter interrupts the spirits of the former.

Nothing, however, seems to interrupt the omnipresence of coronavirus, nor its deleterious effects on our lives. When we are not being divided and conquered, we are being watched, counted, regulated, and controlled. For the well-being of all, we are told not to gather with subversive groups, like friends and family, whom we cannot not trust and thus must fear. If we do not comply, then we just might die. So, shamed or bullied we comply.

Social distancing is now our Saviour, and the ubiquitous, controversial face mask has become the hallmark of loyalty and compliance to the Saviour’s science. Once innocuous, face masks have now become ominously omnipresent, something akin to the “mark of the beast” in the Book of Revelation. This beast “forced all people, great and small, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hands or on their foreheads, so that they could not buy or sell unless they had the mark, …” (Rev. 13:16-17). Who can buy or sell without a mask? Who can do just about anything anywhere without a mask? Such enforced facelessness is not social distancing but socially dehumanizing. It isolates, alienates, ostracizes, and abandons, not just physically but also psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually. As a result, some of our most vulnerable members of society have been left to wither and die at our new Saviour’s behest.

The above is the narrative dictated by those who live their lives in service to the fear of disease, doom, and death. The following is the narrative of the God who gave his son’s life in service to those who live in fear of disease, doom, and death.

1 In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And all went to be registered, each to his own town. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. 6 And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” 15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them (Luke 2:1-20).

Those are two diametrically opposed services. On Thursday, 24 December, St. Luke’s has scheduled two very similar services, one at 6:00 pm and the other at 8:00 pm. Hopefully there, the people will also hear God’s angel again say, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.”