COVID-19, Contagion, and Christ

by Rebecca Roman

We soon approach the season of Advent. And what an Advent season it will be. In recent history, there may never have been a more poignant sense that we are in waiting. Waiting for life to return to normal. Waiting to be able to freely socialize with one another. Waiting to sing in worship services without the hindrance of masks. Waiting for an end to anxiety—that we may unknowingly spread disease to our friends, family or neighbours. Or, anxiety over getting ill ourselves or loss of income. All around the world, we are wondering: when will it be over?

At the time of this writing, over 48 million people have had a confirmed case of COVID-19. Of those, more than 1.2 million have died. These are heartrending statistics.

In my home province of Manitoba, we recently moved to Code Orange. This means increased restrictions: mainly, mask-wearing in all public places and gathering sizes reduced to five people. Since October 18, we haven’t had a day go by without a death due to COVID-19. This is deeply saddening.

This past Sunday evening, I was playing dominoes with my oldest daughter. We were having fun setting up rows of dominoes. Give a nudge to the one on the end, and watch them all topple. It struck me at the time that the spread of this infectious disease is like that row of dominoes. One person spreads it to another, who spreads it to the next person, and so on. And, in this case, it is more like one person spreads it to at least two people, who in turn each spread to two people…and we end up with an explosion in cases.

Later, as I reflected on the predicament we are currently in, I wondered, What if, as Christians, we were as contagious as COVID-19? I will readily admit that outspoken confession of Christ hasn’t exactly been a hallmark of my life. Part of the reason for this is that, sometimes, I’ve felt there are parts of my faith that are tough to reconcile. Questions that don’t have apparent answers. Another part is, admittedly, the sense that it is someone else’s responsibility. It is this part of myself that is in need of further transformation through Christ. Perhaps some of the challenges in this issue can inspire us all.

In this issue, Garry Koop invites us to live a life committed to peace, even to the point of laying down our own lives. Andrew Unger encourages us to consider humour as an important part of our Christian witness. Arlin Scharfenberg speaks of the opportunities he’s found to share Christ even in the midst of the restrictions of COVID-19.

Beyond that, Kevin Wiebe urges us towards a more compassionate understanding of the “other” to push us away from polarization. Jen Kornelsen highlights the upcoming theology conference where leaders will discuss a Christ-centred view of human sexuality.

Tim Dyck encourages us to reconsider consumerism and give of ourselves on #GivingTuesday and beyond. Layton Friesen invites us to walk in freedom as fully forgiven, defeated warriors. Our churches, missionaries, and affiliate organizations share how they are acting as Christ’s hands and feet to minister amidst the turmoil of our world.

One of my current favourite worship songs is King of Kings by Hillsong. The lyrics that bring me to tears every time are, “And the church of Christ was born / Then the Spirit lit the flame / Now this gospel truth of old / Shall not kneel, shall not faint.” For me, it is a reminder that Christ has established his church, and Christ will ensure she continues until he comes again.

Rebecca Roman

As you read, mourn, laugh, repent, celebrate, and wait this Advent season, may you also discover hope and courage as we work together in the world on behalf of the One who empowers us.
“Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord” (Ephesians 2:19–21).

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