There is a tradition in United Methodist circles that when we gather for our Annual Conference we begin by singing these words from a Charles Wesley Hymn: “And are we yet alive, and see each other’s face?” In this pandemic year how we long to see each other’s faces in person and not mediated through zoom, google or Facetime. I suggest that when we are finally able to have in-person worship again we should sing that hymn.
The sadness and trials of 2020 began for me weeks before we ever heard of COVID-19. A dear friend and colleague died in the first week of January in a freak accident where he fell and hit his head on concrete causing a fatal brain bleed. The preacher at the celebration of the Rev. Dr. Bill Casto’s life was another of our mutual friends, Bishop Joe Sprague. The thing that stuck with me most about the Bishop’s sermon was this line: “Where is our brother Bill now? He is where he’s always been—in the heart of God.”
As God’s beloved children that’s where all of us are alive, in the heart of God. God’s gift of eternal life doesn’t start when we die. Eternal means forever – before our souls took on human form and after this life on earth is over, whenever that may be.
As we prepare our hearts during this pandemic Advent being alive is more precious with death or the threat of it all around us. And being alive is more than simply breathing and existing. Being alive for people of faith is more about quality than quantity. It means finding passion and purpose in how we use this day and the life and talent God has given us.
Just as we all live eternally in the heart of God the incarnation we celebrate at Christmas means God came alive as one of us at Bethlehem, but that was not the beginning of Christs’ existence. As the Gospel of John tells us “He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into beingin him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness (even of 2020) did not overcome it.” (John 1:2-5)
What makes you feel alive? How can you live more days embracing that feeling? You are God’s beloved child – how do you plan to live up to that birthright?
My prayer for all of us to have a rebirth of joy and purpose is captured for me in these words from “O Little Town of Bethlehem: “O Holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us we pray; cast out our sin and enter in, be born in us today.” Amen