“And when the wise men were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, ‘arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him.’ When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt. And was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, ‘out of Egypt have I called my son.’” (Matthew 2:13-15)
Hospital bed counts are surging; pandemic deaths are on the rise; and yet there is hope in a dark time. The vaccines are beginning to appear and county by county decisions are being made, and health-care givers and others are receiving their first dose of two. (These are still experimental vaccines. Nobody knows how long immunity lasts, and it certainly does not mean letting down your guard — or your neighbors — on mask, distance, outdoors, sanitizing your hands just before you touch your face), or test, treat, trace.
“In the dark times, will there also be singing? Yes, there will also be singing. About the dark times.” — Bertolt Brecht.
And sometimes it feels like that is the best we can hope for, but we have friends, from the past, and hopefully from the future, who know how it feels. We meet some of them in the story of the three kings, notably magi, Mary, Joseph, and a child. They are briefly near each other, as the planets Saturn and Jupiter have been briefly near each other this past couple of weeks, but soon they are headed in widely different directions: the magi back to their own country, the holy family headed to the land of the Nile. There they will sojourn until they get the word Big Herod is dead.
But as we learn, there is a little Herod, or two, waiting in the wings. And that may be so in our own dark times, too.
What we do have, as they had, is the faithfulness of God, and his keeping his promise, in extraordinary ways. We do not expect this Messiah, the one we get in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. If we needed another hero we may be disappointed. And he does not just make it all go away like magic.
Mask, distance, outdoors, wash hands; test, trace, treat ... still. And for months to come.
What will we have learned? What will we have left behind? Whom shall we be mourning by then?
In the dark times, there is singing:
“Nations will stream to your light and kings to the brightness of your dawning.
“A light to the nations and the glory of your people.
“The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has never overcome it.”
Prophets and apostles, and the ever ending casts of Messiah, and we, too, are singing in the darkness, but not simply of the darkness. Like the wise virgins in the parable that very child will later tell, we keep our lamps trimmed and burning, not because the darkness is not there, but because it is — and we have hope.
Hope in a dark time.