Dear friends in Christ,
Advent has begun, but I suspect plenty of us are focused on the Omicron variant more than on Jesus Christ, the Alpha and the Omega.
It’s an understandable worry. We all want the pandemic to end, and we want our loved ones to stay healthy and safe. The headlines about the Omicron variant are sometimes terrifying. But articles are often less frightening than their sensational titles may suggest. Still, every time you flip on the TV or open a news site, those headlines scream out at you again.
Reading the articles is not just a good way to be informed, but it can be an essential spiritual discipline. If we leave ourselves to headlines, we may let ourselves be ruled by fear. If we move beyond the headlines to the substance, we can experience a more balanced approach to any news story.
What do we know about Omicron as I write this? Not too much, other than it’s a significantly different COVID variant that has already spread around the world. Vaccines may or may not work against it. It may or may not be more contagious and more deadly than previous variants. It may or may not respond to new treatments. Those facts are a lot different that the initial impression the headlines give us.
If our hearts are ruled by fear, they cannot be ruled by love. And, indeed, love casts out fear. It’s not that fear is bad. Fear is an evolutionary necessity that keeps us alive sometimes! It’s just that we can’t let ourselves be defined and governed by our fears. Rather, our perfectly reasonable and necessary fears should be governed by our Christian hope.
Not long ago on Thanksgiving Day, we heard the Gospel from Matthew 6. “And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?” Worrying doesn’t change anything, except that it consumes us.
I get afraid sometimes, just like everyone else. It’s almost impossible not to be afraid with all those screaming news sites! But on a good day, I make sure I don’t spend too much time with scary headlines. And on a great day, I spend plenty of time with God’s trustworthy and true message of hope in the scriptures.
In this Advent season, I hope we will all turn to hope and love more than fear. A good way to get daily inspiration is the Advent Word devotion, based on words from the Sunday lectionary. Or there’s always Forward Day by Day.
The Omicron variant – and plenty of other things in the news – might be truly and rightly terrifying. But none of these things need to define us. We are defined by Jesus Christ, who always stands ready to offer hope, mercy, justice, grace, and peace. Greek-letter COVID variants are big, but they are not as big as Jesus Christ, the beginning and the end, the Alpha and the Omega.