In Christianity, the season of Advent heralds the coming of Christ at Christmas, but it also is a time to reflect upon the darkness of the world in which those of the faith ask God to make things right — to bring us light. As Pastor Lisa Talbott at Homer United Methodist Church notes, each Advent Sunday celebrates hope, peace, joy and love. “Things we all need,” she said.
This season of 2020 has been particularly dark. Since the pandemic started in March, the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services announced almost 200 Alaskans have died with COVID-19. Over the past two weeks the southern Kenai Peninsula has seen 74 positive cases. Those of us who knew Bob Letson mourn his death from COVID-19. Many of us know others who have died or suffered the worst effects of the pandemic.
Our hospital and health resources are stretched thin. Our traditional Thanksgiving celebration where families come together was held in small groups. Hundreds suffer in near poverty, from bad fishing seasons, from a tourist season where we barely limped by. We have lost jobs or had hours cut. On top of that, those who came into this pandemic enduring poverty, addiction and domestic violence have seen their pain increased.
We have also come through a vitriolic, mean political season, one that hopefully will fade away as the transition of power in Washington, D.C., stumbles along.
How can we find light?
That has been the eternal question of this advent season. It is a question asked by Pagans, the believers before Christianity in ancient Europe who celebrated events like the Saturnalia, the Roman holiday of the Winter Solstice. Judaism has its own celebration of light, Hanukkah. And of course tomorrow we have Christmas, the day Christians celebrate the light of the Lord.
Here in the northern hemisphere, the turning of the planet from darkness to increasing sunshine no doubt inspired many of these traditions. Early on Dec. 21, the earth appeared to stand still — “solstice” means just that — and minute by minute, the sun rises earlier in the morning and sets later in the evening, and the daylight hours get longer.
In the midst of this pandemic,there are rays of hope. Already three highly effective vaccines have been tested and two have been approved. The first doses have arrived on the Kenai Peninsula and have been given to health care workers, those angels of this hard struggle, and to residents living in Pioneer Homes or long-term care facilities.
The pandemic will not end with a bang, but a whimper, as T.S. Eliot wrote in “The Hollow Men.” Through science, through a better understanding of the disease, through community perseverance, the numbers will fall. The deaths will ebb. The sickness will slowly end.
Our salvation will not be quick, but it will come. To get there we must endure a few more weeks of darkness. Through the love of family and friends, through the strength of community, we will do the right things. We will mask up. We will avoid large groups. We will work at home when we can. We will be kind and merciful. We will help those in need.
“Share the Spirit” is the name and theme of one of the groups that makes this happen. For those of faith, it is spirit itself. For those who find faith in each other, it is the sharing. We give what we can to those who need, even if we also have needs.
We will emerge. We will be weak at first, but we will plant and sow and reap.
And the light will return.
– Michael Armstrong, editor