Just after Christmas on a recent Saturday, at about 7:45 AM, I arrived at the hospital and walked through the back entrance and had my temperature taken and I sanitized my hands. From that station, I moved to the next and briefly signed some papers then proceeded to the next station where my name was on a list of persons who were to receive the Covid 19 immunization.
The next station’s attendant briefly discussed the vaccine, then I took my place at one of the injection spaces and a member of the team brought out a syringe containing the hope of relief from this pandemic. After a fifteen minute wait post-injection, I was on my way home with antibodies cooking.
I was so proud of the military type operation the hospital had in giving those shots. Someone put a lot of thought into it so that it was smooth and efficient. But most impressive, and most difficult to explain, was the sense of camaraderie in the place that morning. There was something in the air. The people there, the team and those receiving shots, seemed to move and talk with an unspoken excitement just below the surface.
It was as though we were all stirred by the same hope. Something good was happening. Something very good. A tide was turning. A rescuer was arriving. Maybe even an exile was ending. A star had appeared. The feeling was nearly palpable, especially when felt together.
The work that went into the development of the vaccines was not reactionary. For years, many had worked, thinking it through and developing the technology, slowly, diligently, quietly laboring, not even knowing how critical their efforts would become. Hope guided their technology for such a time when their technology would become hope.
And it just about brought me to tears to realize I was a part of such an endeavor–this body of hope, this literal Body of Christ. It hit me that these medical people were a branch of the people of His church, all united on the front lines of bringing hope to a world looking for a savior. It is clear to me that a vaccine is grace. And it is clear that God’s grace is a vaccine. And the church brings both to the world. To the mean, sick, indifferent, cynical, non-evidence-based world, the disciples of Jesus take Him.
A month or so ago, my seven year old granddaughter, Susie, completed a school assignment entitled, “Things I’m Thankful For.” She had to include a person, a place and a thing. For person she wrote, “I’m thankful for God because He is the best.” For place she wrote, “I’m thankful for the church because it reminds me of my Grandmom.” And for thing she wrote, “I’m thankful for everyone because they’re beautiful.”
Therein lies the little spirit of person-to-person being formed by the Holy Spirit. It is somehow the same togetherness being stirred by the Holy Spirit I sensed when I went for my Covid immunization. Person-to-person compassion was on a new movement at the prompting of the real, alive God who definitely is Person, even mysteriously and completely Three-In-One. It is the Person for whom Susie is thankful. It is the Person who cares that we are sick and came and did something about it.
And Susie sees the church also as person. In the person of her Grandmom, who moved into the immediate presence of God over two years ago, Susie witnessed the church to be flesh and blood. The church was the arms and the smile of her Grandmom. And Susie will come to know that the flesh and blood church sometimes stands beside us as a medical assistant putting a shot in our arms.
And in the fashion of the camaraderie of my immunization day, Susie sees everyone as made in the image of God, all beautiful and joyous together. And she gives thanks. And so do we give thanks as we contemplate the joy of the coming of the vaccine that roughly mirrors the coming of our Savior.
In a peculiar way, I miss my wife, Joy, as a member of that earthly Body of Christ, the church. Looking back, she brought God’s hope, goodness and light into my life. She was God’s instrument in forming me, in forming us together, in letting me know the delight of His love and care. She prayed for me, and for us, a lot. That sense of fellowship and camaraderie at the immunization event was in some small sense the way it was around her. She embodied the presence of the church of Jesus. Around her, I always felt something good was about to happen. Something soothing and healing. We were part of something holy and good together.
On a clear, cool evening not long ago, I stood on the edge of the ridge where I live and stared at the “Star of Bethlehem,” the apparent coming together of Jupiter and Saturn, and I felt Joy would have been awed and her awe would have been contagious, just like her awesome life. Seeing that star, she would have pondered the coming of God to earth. It would have fortified her trust. In her solid and quiet trust, she helped me to trust. Her trust is now sight.
As they stood near the Christmas tree just before this past Christmas, I overheard Susie say to her older sister, Hazel, “Hazel, what do you want for Christmas? I want Grandmom.”
The real church immunized me with a Hope that prevents me from getting sick in sentimentality and leads me to the realistically hopeful camaraderie of a sweet little heart that wants her Grandmom for Christmas.
Because of the coming of the Star of Hope, like a vaccine into a pandemic, I am truly able to smile and say, “Me too, Susie. Me too!”
We, His people, His church, will no longer live in indifference to His coming, but will proclaim the Star of Hope with an air of excitement about us, a contagious excitement that something good is happening, as our camaraderie invites the world to Jesus.