Like a gift waiting to be opened, renewal awaits as we face life after the pandemic.
The vaccine is coming. I can’t wait. It is time to think about life after the pandemic. I hear talk about a “new normal.” While that sounds all right, I have a hard time defining “normal” since life is anything but that.
Rather than trash the word normal, I have replaced it over the years with a deeper understanding found in my faith, which allows me to receive each day as a blessing or gift. With any gift comes a giver, and as a person of faith, I believe God is the giver of all good gifts. One such gift is renewal.
I know. Many have lost close loved ones during this pandemic. Talking about blessings and gifts may sound callous. Faith does speak, however, even and especially, in those times when life caves in and collapses. Again, one way is through renewal.
I write about renewal because I hear people discussing the need to “reinvent” themselves. Yes, reinventing ourselves sounds inviting. Perhaps, purchase several snappy items for the wardrobe. Drop a few pounds. Dust off the old resume. I get it, but when we reinvent ourselves, we are still left with the self to guide us. We depend upon ourselves. We are self-reliant. But life after the pandemic requires more.
Faith and renewal provide more than pulling up the bootstraps. They incorporate different ways of thinking and living. They open us to trust and encourage us to rely upon someone — some spirit that is holy, some power that is greater, something other than simply ourselves.
This brings me to the energy found in renewal. For Christians all over the world, Christmas ushers in a season of new life. We discover a time for joy found primarily by living in and trusting God.
Christmas also brings peace, “the peace of God that passes all understanding,” as St. Paul writes. It transcends understanding because the peace of God is a gift of faith, which also encompasses hope and love leading to renewal from God.
These may just sound like a list of words, but words matter and can lead to action. I read, for example, that Italy plans to shut down Christmas this year. Good luck with that. Christmas, like renewal, is less about an event in time, than it is about a timeless event. Christmas and the experience of renewal and faith walk hand in hand. It all begins with grace. And grace becomes faith in action, the Word made flesh.
We do not earn nor deserve grace. It comes as both a blessing and a gift from God. It gives us the strength to do what we cannot normally do on our own. When normal departs, living by grace enters.
A person without grace is literally a persona non grata — someone unwelcome, unacceptable and not exactly good company. These days, worry and stress are skyrocketing, and anger follows not far behind. As the three escalate, our actions hurt others, and we damage the image of God that resides within.
Grace provides an antidote to much of what we have experienced this past year. Grace is a good word. We might say grace is God’s good word. Grace is constructive and helpful. In fact, grace helps us keep company with God and with what is good.
How does grace apply to Christmas? The Christian tradition understands the birth of Jesus as the Word becoming flesh. Through this little baby, we have received “grace upon grace” (John 1:16) and for those who believe, we find power in him to become children of God.
Grace gives growth. Rest assured, growth has to do with transformation. Life after the vaccine will be a time to change, transform, grow and ultimately be renewed. Try to remember this as you roll up your sleeve and wait for the injection.
Christmas is not about self-help. It is about God’s help. Go ahead. Sing about the little town of Bethlehem. You know, “Where the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.” And tomorrow? Like a gift waiting to be opened, renewal awaits.