The holiday publishing schedule for the bulletin is such that I’m writing this the day when the COVID-19 vaccine is being first distributed and administered to front-line health workers. Pictures of nurses and doctors, shirt sleeves rolled up, receiving the vaccine are splashed across the front page of newspapers and on news web sites. National news broadcast the events, even doing remote feeds from Kalamazoo, where Pfizer is producing and distributing the vaccine. Even though many of us will still have to wait until sometime next year for the vaccine, after nine long months of dread, sickness, and death, there is a spirit of hope, an air of anticipation, a sense that an end to this pandemic is in our foreseeable future.
This anticipation and hope isn’t unlike the anticipation and joy the we celebrated during Advent, while we prepared ourselves spiritually for the “coming” of Jesus. I quote “coming” because the reality is, Jesus has already come to us, 2,024 years ago! (Interesting sidenote: biblical scholars believe Jesus was born in 4 B.C., around the same time most scholars date the death of King Herod the Great.) But every year during the four weeks leading up to Christmas we re-live the anticipation the ancient world sensed leading up to the coming of the Messiah.
Since the global pandemic was declared in mid-March, we have been waiting anxiously for this vaccine. Nine months, waiting for some good news, while our normal lives have been disrupted in unimaginable ways. We have witnessed conflicts over wearing masks escalate into violence and even death. We have waited not even a full calendar year for this vaccine, and even still, it hasn’t come fast enough. Yet if we remember the First Reading of the Third Sunday of Advent, we heard the Prophet Isaiah foretell the coming of the Lord… seven hundred years before Jesus’s birth! Generations came and went, anticipating the coming of the King of the Jews.
This vaccine, and those pending approval, give us a sense of rebirth, a sense of life returning to normal, a sense of the wait being over. As great as this is, what Jesus gives us is far greater. Jesus gives us rebirth through baptism. His death and resurrection give us the hope for eternal life. We are blessed to live in a time where we don’t have to wait for the coming of the Messiah. The wait is over. Unto us our savior is born! Let us rejoice and be glad!
Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year,
P.S. Next Friday, January 1, is the Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God, normally a holy day of obligation