By: Sid Salter
Our family, like most, is nearing the end of our collective ropes in COVID-19 fatigue and pandemic uncertainty. Enough, already.
We are miles past weariness with masks, social distancing, extra sanitization, toilet paper and Lysol wipe hoarding, travel restrictions, and seeing friends struggle to keep their businesses open and their jobs secure. We miss our family members – particularly older relatives who are undeniably vulnerable to the coronavirus.
In my work, meetings, conferences, and even face-to-face conversations have been subsumed by Zoom, Webex, or Teams meetings that are effective but amplify the feelings of isolation, separation, and growing disconnection from the pre-COVID world.
I confess a certain amount of irrational anger at those who either won’t wear a mask at all in public or worse, those who seem unable to grasp how to wear masks correctly by letting them hang below their nostrils. I get that a percentage of the population values not being told what to do far more than they value contributing their part to keeping others safe – even vulnerable members of their own families.
But I digress. The point is that the Great 2019-2020 Pandemic has been a colossal pain and it appears that despite truly encouraging news on the vaccine front, the COVID rollercoaster ride will continue well into the summer of 2021.
As we all learned over Thanksgiving, the celebration of holidays within the COVID construct is difficult and not particularly satisfying. The people we’re used to seeing a couple of times a year in normal times just aren’t being seen.
Christmas is the season in which Christians celebrate the birth of a baby 2,020 years ago when the world was in spiritual darkness. Malachi, the last book of the Old Testament, was written in the fifth century B.C. The word of God had effectively not been heard for over four centuries.
When Christ was born, the Roman Empire had been in power for half a century. The children of Israel were a people without a real ruler or army, existing under the tacit leadership of Herod the Great – a Roman puppet who pretended to convert to the Jewish faith and rebuilt their temples that had been destroyed by the Babylonians.
The Romans allowed observance of local religions, but the Hebrews were at that time waiting for the Messiah since the days of Malachi. In the absence of a new prophet to provide religious leadership, the ancient Jewish Pharisees, Sadducees, and scribes ruled by tradition, sacrament, and ritual. They maintained an uneasy relationship with the Roman political and military leadership.
Into that uncertain, dangerous, and complicated world, Jesus was born in a manger. During his brief ministry, Jesus brought hope and joy to followers who believed him to be the long-awaited Messiah and became the central figure of the Christian faith.
In the New Testament Book of John, Jesus spoke these words: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.”
There was no star in the east and indeed no manager, but our family found the light of Christ last week in a familiar setting – in the birth of another baby boy.
His name is Brooks Salter Gregory, and he arrived on Dec. 2 at OCH Regional Medical Center in Starkville weighing 10 pounds, 11 ounces, and was 21.5 inches long. His arrival has been anticipated by his parents, sister, grandparents, great-grandparents, and extended family for the past nine months despite the pandemic.
No grandparents in the hospital hallway, no friends were waiting to hold the baby, just Kate and Nathan Gregory with the OCH medical personnel. Texts and FaceTime gave us our first glimpses of our new grandson. It was different for everyone.
Certainly, no single event brought “light” to the world like the birth of Christ. But in days like these, we all must diligently search for the light of Christ where we can find it. It is in the glow of that light that we can find our way through the darkness of the pandemic and still hold onto our collective humanity.
Welcome to the world, Little Big Man. What a blessing you are!