December 2020

December 2020

A Winter of Darkness and the Light of Christ

Have you heard reference this year to a “dark winter”? The pandemic has been with us since March, and while the summer proved rather mild for most of us, with the onset of colder weather the coronavirus is flourishing, hospitals are filling, tensions are rising, and hopes are dwindling. Talk of a “dark winter” assumes that the worst is yet to come.

And yet there are reasons for hope. Highly effective vaccines are right around the corner, with plans for deployment at the Lutheran Home in a matter of weeks. Some of our most vulnerable populations have already been exposed to, and recovered from, the coronavirus. Our authorities are recognizing that school closures do far more harm than good, and mitigation measures should hopefully be more targeted and effective with minimal damage to our economy and society. We’ve learned a lot about the virus and can treat it much more effectively than before. Far from a “dark winter,” I am filled with hope as I look toward the months ahead.

This way of looking at things sums up the Advent season for me. I think it’s a wonderful thing that, in the providence of Almighty God, Advent and Christmas fall within the natural winter season. The Christians who originally celebrated the birth of Christ on December 25 did not experience winters like ours, with months of subfreezing temperatures and heavy snowfall. But as Christmas spread to northern Europe, and with it the preparatory season of Advent, this celebration came to be associated with that time of year when we hole up in our cozy homes, waiting hopefully for the thaw to come. Apart from our members who spend their winters in Florida, we here in Iowa celebrate Advent and Christmas during the “dark winter,” when we are forced to wait patiently for milder days ahead.

Consider one of our classic Lutheran Christmas hymns, “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming” (LSB 359). This hymn plays on the winter imagery of Advent and Christmas, the first stanza concluding that Jesus came “Amid the cold of winter, When half-spent was the night.” When the powers of darkness loomed over a desperate world, “when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of woman” (Gal. 4:4). The light of Christ breaks into our winter of darkness, a foretaste of our ultimate deliverance, when we will emerge from the dark winter of this world into the bright daylight of eternal life in the kingdom of God.

I am hopeful that God will work through those whom He has called into positions of authority and service to bring us relief from our present “dark winter” brought about by the threat of the coronavirus. But I have no guarantee of that. Nothing is guaranteed in this life, apart from sin and death. We should never count our earthly chickens before they’re hatched. What a joy, therefore, to have perfect certainty that the one ultimate promise of our redemption in Christ is never in question. No matter what befalls us in this life, no matter what temporary earthly victories the devil might rack up for himself, no matter how dark our winter, the light of Christ shines brightly, promising deliverance and peace, the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation.

May your celebration of Advent and Christmas this year be tinged with divine confidence, joy, peace, and hope as we remember the coming of Christ in the flesh to redeem us, and look forward to His coming in glory to receive us into His everlasting kingdom.

God's Blessings,

Pastor Neuendorf

  January 2021