Daily Service 13 Dec 2021 – Glimpsing Jesus

Good morning and welcome to the daily service with me, the junior doctor, Mark Tan.

We were in the process of getting our daughter to sleep when a crescendo roar was heard coming from outside. “Must be an important football match” I thought to myself. It turned out the cheers were for us. See this was the start of the COVID19 pandemic. It was the Thursday evening at 8pm that the #Clapforcarers movement began. The public, in an attempt to show appreciation for the work of healthcare professionals like myself, decided to mount a coordinated standing ovation. At first, many of my colleagues felt a fresh boost of morale. Within weeks though, a predictable backlash grew against the movement. Many healthcare workers felt the acute jarring dissonance between being called heroes and their actual experience on the frontline. At that time, roughly 50% of critically ill patients died despite the most advanced care. Visiting restrictions meant we struggled to communicate with families of patients. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) made hospital care androgynous, ambiguous and anonymous. We didn’t feel like heroes, and the backlash from the caring professions against #clapforcarers was our pointed acknowledgement of it.

This first song perhaps reflects the seeming impotence of us all during those initial days of the pandemic. Captive in our houses, shrouded by uncertainty, and divided through fear, we yearned for deliverance. In this song, that is met by the acknowledgement of our constant need for Jesus Christ.

Song
O come, O come, Emmanuel sung by Truro Cathedral Choir

Prayer
Immanuel, we look back and thank you for your faithfulness. For both the times we have felt hopeless, and the glimmers of hope we have witnessed throughout this pandemic, we acknowledge your presence with us. We continue to pray for those struck by the virus, as well as those who are still recovering. We thank you for the love that drives us to action, and for your presence which stills our fears. Thank you for your call to follow and your forgiveness when we stray. We worship you, our Lord and God. Amen.

There have been moments throughout this pandemic – which is still ongoing – where I have struggled to rejoice. At work, witnessing the many tragedies in critical care has tested my resilience. At home, I found it too difficult to sing along while watching church services online. I have felt acutely aware of the concept of the faraway God. Yet often I have been reminded of the truth that despite my feelings or circumstances through it all Christ is with me. The reading today is taken from Matthew chapter 16 reading from verse 13


13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”
14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
15 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you that you are Peter,[a] and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades[b] will not overcome it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be[c] bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be[d] loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.
21 From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.
22 Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!”
23 Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”

The disciples were asked who they thought Jesus was. Beginning with the incarnation of prophets and forefathers, they eventually confessed him as the Messiah. Yet, immediately following that brief exchange, and despite their almost three year history of working together with Jesus, they demonstrated utter misunderstanding of his mission and who he was.

Just like Peter, whose denial of Jesus was repeated after the crucifixion, our numerous failings have been met, and will always be met by the divine mercy of Christ. So this Christmas, I will sing. After all this time, I will sing. I will sing not just because of the vaccine, nor the survivors of COVID[1]. I will sing because Immanuel has been with us all this while. In fact, God was with us during both the clapping and the silence. Through the physical scars and psychological trauma. Beyond the medications and the vaccines. He has been with us, and one day, he will indeed come again, and the wounds, both visible and invisible, will be healed as we gaze upon His glorious scars.

Song
Lo he comes with clouds descending – St John’s

Prayer
King of kings, please grant wisdom and humility to those in power. Please give them courage to make decisions which demonstrate love and unity. May your grace be ever upon them as they seek to improve the lives of all. Please remind us this advent, that there are still people who are suffering from COVID. There are families who have lost loved ones, and others who are still unable to meet. There are regions and areas of the world where inequalities and injustices continue. There are countries which are still struggling to vaccinate their population[2]. How we need your mercy Lord this Christmas. Teach us to look beyond what our eyes can see, what our ears can hear, and what our skin may touch, and help us to acknowledge you as Lord of all. Amen.

Lord of love, as some countries close their borders again[3], we open our hearts to your Spirit this Christmas. Whether decorations are ornate or sparse, we give thanks that you are the brightest star. For the well-fed this season, or the many more in the world who will go hungry[4], we pray that you will provide the bread of life. However full or empty our homes are this season[5], may you fill our lives with your love. Love that sees beyond differences, that covers every fear, that stands against all storms. And as we approach Christmas, thank you for already coming to us that very first Noel. Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer:
Our father who art in heaven
Hallowed be your name
Your kingdom come, your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven
Give us this day our daily bread
And forgive us our sins
As we forgive those who sin against us
And lead us not in to temptation
But deliver us from evil
For the kingdom, the power and the glory are Yours
Now and for ever
AMEN

Song
Arvo Part: The Deer’s Cry by Voces8

The blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, be with us all Now and for ever, Amen.

Footnotes

[1] The ambers of hope provided by patients who survived were rapidly smothered by the fact that significant proportions continued to suffer with post-COVID syndromes, affecting their physical, mental and emotional health.

[2] Only 4% of Africa have been vaccinated. Global health inequalities like this form the perfect breeding ground for variants, as has been already demonstrated by Delta, Epsilon and how, Omicron.

[3] When the Omicron variant was first discovered, a reflex action occurred and several countries closed their borders to South Africa and sub-Saharan Africa.

[4] This week, it has been highlighted that the situation in Afghanistan is so dire that many parents are leaving children behind in order to flee the country. Within UK, child poverty and hunger rates had reached 1 in 5 children earlier this year.

[5] Many Internationals, like myself, have not been able to meet their family for the last 2 years.


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