By Simon Tinling
We’ve taken down our Christmas decorations and vacuumed up the green carpet of pine needles where the tree had been – the result of buying a tree a full week earlier than normal because the family needed something to do! We’ve put up our new 2021 calendars and even booked a family holiday for August. Yet no sooner than we dared to look forward to the coming year, lockdown happened again.
There was a sense of déjà vu from last March when we could see the inevitability of pandemic approaching, yet could not conceive of it changing our way of living in the way it has. Lockdown #3 has brought many of the same experiences as lockdown #1, but there are some differences too. We are more resigned and adapted to lockdown living and probably wearier too, but crucially the arrival of three approved vaccines has given us hope for the year ahead.
Hope has power to transform our entire outlook. Harsh working conditions can be endured when we know they are temporary. Heartache at the absence of loved ones is eased when we can look forward to being with them again later this year (and not just on Zoom). Winter darkness and gloom is brightened by the thought of sunny days ahead. This is just our shared human experience of hope, what some might call positive thinking or looking on the bright side. But this kind of human hope can also be treacherous; much like our experience of Covid-19 predictions, it can carry us along on a wave of optimism only to dash us against the rocks of harsh reality.
As believers in Christ, we have a hope that is more certain than any vaccine, infinitely longer lasting than the year ahead and more glorious than the sunniest summer day. It is not treacherous like human hope because it rests on the promises of God. Its power to transform is so much more than mere positive thinking because it is the power of God for the salvation of all who believe (Romans 1:16). It is not simply the hope of returning to how things were or of a temporary reprieve, like a summer holiday, but of being raised to eternal life as children of God.
The quality of our hope shows itself in its power to change us. Knowing that a vaccine is on the way and that life will return to ‘normal’ later in 2021 is great news and it may help me to dig a bit deeper, grit my teeth and get through some difficult days ahead. But knowing that Christ died for my sins and rose from death transforms me on a completely different level, not simply to be able to wait for improvements in the circumstances of my life but to live in an entirely different way: no longer for myself but for him who died for me and was raised again.
Let’s each pray for grace from the Lord not only to endure as we wait for the vaccine and life to return to ‘normal’, but to be transformed into his glorious likeness so that whether our times are ‘normal’, abnormal or ‘new normal’, we may be instruments for special purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work (2 Tim 2:21).