Christmas & COVID
Why COVID-19 Is Not The Last Pandemic
To mask or not to mask? To vaccinate or not? Should vaccinations be mandatory or a matter of personal choice? Should children be required to wear masks at school? Even after this variant or any other has run its course, what comes next? I reply, plenty. With overwhelming questions like these, the celebration of Christ’s birth at Christmas doesn’t seem to have any relevance to the realities we face.
Jesus predicted pandemics like this, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences” (Luke 21:10–11, italics added).
Has COVID-19 been the fulfillment of His prediction? No, but it prefigures what is still to come. Just like a movie trailer, COVID-19 offers a picture of even worse pandemics at the end of days. In fact, of Death and Hades we read, “And they were given authority over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence…” (Revelation 6:8, italics added). Thankfully, I do not think that we as believers will be on Earth during these plagues. We see the trailer, not the movie.
Has COVID-19 been the judgment of God? Yes, all diseases, along with natural disasters and death itself, are the judgment of God, for “the soul who sins shall die” (Ezekiel 18:20). In this era, neither COVID-19 nor natural disasters separate the righteous from the wicked, for we all—even believers—are still being judged for our sins, both personal and corporate.
What does this have to do with Christmas? The angel Gabriel announced that Jesus came in the flesh to “save His people from their sins.” In order to accomplish this, He had to both die in our place and be raised—never to die again. In other words, the work of Jesus was not just for the forgiveness of our sins, but also for the redemption of our bodies. As a preview of this, when Jesus was here on Earth, He healed people to fulfill the words of Isaiah, “He took our illnesses and bore our diseases” (Matthew 8:17; see also Isaiah 53).
The Gospel, revealed in that baby in the manger, is the promissory note that COVID-19, and all its variants, do not have the last word. Personally, I’m ready for Christmas! Many of our friends died this year, a few from COVID-19, and others from heart attacks and cancers. I do not believe sorrow and joy are mutually exclusive. We can sorrow, but we can also sing, “Joy to the world, the Lord has come!”
A young pastor told the moving story of his own child’s birth. His wife was in the hospital delivering their first child when the baby became stuck in the birth canal. Their little girl’s shoulder was in the wrong position! He panicked, of course, fearing the worst. But a doctor came over to him and looked directly into his eyes, saying, “In a few moments, there will be 20 people buzzing around in this room. I assure you—we know what we are doing, and everything will be okay!” And yes, everything turned out okay.
In this crazy world with voices shouting at us from all directions, the little baby in the manger is God whispering to us, “I know what I am doing, and everything is going to be okay!”
God did not abandon His sovereignty when COVID-19 arrived. This Christmas, let us turn off all the other voices vying for our attention and join to sing the familiar carols with renewed gusto and joy. God Himself has some advice for us in Mark 9:7: “This is my beloved Son; listen to him!”
God’s Word In Times Of Crisis
God’s Word speaks its timeless truths to people in every age and situation. Pastor Lutzer shows you how to apply Scriptures to the issues we are facing today.
Q: Since you raised the matter of the vaccines and COVID-19, let me ask: Why have these controverses divided our nation?
A: In my opinion, it’s because the medical community is not speaking with one voice. I heard about a peer-reviewed study that concluded masks do not help; they just don’t work. On the other hand, there are experts who tell us we must wear masks—so much so, that at one school board meeting, a member of the board said, “Children who don’t wear masks are committing murder!” So, who is right?
Since I’m on the subject, I know of a university here in Chicago that is mandating the vaccine for everyone. Thankfully, they do have a religious exemption. Those who take advantage of it must be tested twice a week. But we’re learning that even the fully vaccinated can contract COVID-19 and pass it along to others. Should they not also be tested twice a week? These inconsistencies create a dilemma for all of us, so everyone is taking sides.
Q: Although you’re not a medical doctor, as you look at what is happening, do you think we’ll ever get beyond all this?
A: I don’t see an end to all this wrangling anytime soon. Just last week, I heard about another variant that’s resistant to vaccines. If something like this gets out to the public, we will have another crisis. And then another.
Q: How should we look at all these controversies as Christians?
A: In the early church, when there was disagreement as to whether a certain kind of meat should be eaten, Paul ended his discussion by saying, “Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves. But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin” (Romans 14:22–23). Let’s not divide over these matters, but let everyone live according to their own convictions and conscience.
Q: Back to Christmas. What do you look forward to the most?
A: Connecting with family and friends. There is such a thing as “the spirit of Christmas,” a time of anticipation, an atmosphere of generosity, and enjoying company with others. At my age, the idea of receiving Christmas presents isn’t what’s most important to me. It is seeing my children, grandchildren, and friends. Rebecca and I find true joy in blessing others financially, and when possible, with hospitality.
Q: Will the political, racial, and COVID-19 controversies put a damper on your Christmas celebrations?
A: These cultural issues have as much power as we let them have. So, Rebecca and I plan to worship Jesus—our Savior, our Lord, our King. The dire news bulletins can only steal the joy of those who believe that this is the only life there is. For those who trust Christ, we understand that we are only pilgrims living in tents, and so we look for a “City that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God” (Hebrews 11:10).
Q: You turned 80 this year! What do you have planned for the new year?
A: I’m excited to share the Word through radio, TV, and the internet with as many people as I can, for as long as I can. I do not know how many Christmases I will still celebrate, but I often pray, “Lord keep me alive until I die.” I’m convinced that celebrating Christmas will give me renewed energy to keep serving the Lord all the way to the finish line.