Thoughts on Christmas with COVID, from JBKS Architects

Church Architects

Of course, it’s not Christmas with COVID, it’s Christmas with Jesus Christ. It’s the celebration of his birth, whatever. On the other hand, there is no escaping the fact that it is so different.

Since it is our specialist work, we at JBKS, are always very interested and concerned with the thoughts and feelings of the people of our church, not only the buildings. At this time the buildings are mostly empty, but the people have not disappeared. How are they doing, and what can we do for them this Christmas?

With the first lockdown people went shopping to get what they thought they needed: more toilet paper, paracetamol, spare food etc, as if they were preparing for a siege. “We’ve got to get through this,” they said, implying that this was a temporary blip in an overall time of normality. Then came the great release when we were allowed to go out. We could go and eat at restaurants, schools and universities resumed and we could socialise again!

Now the numbers are up again and it’s scary. We are back under restrictions. Yes, there is a vaccine, but many of us won’t get the benefits of it until an unknown time in the future. So, how are we feeling, and what role are our churches playing in our lives this Christmas?

On the Christian radio station UCB, the bubbly announcer, Anne, who asks a question every day, asked “who would you love to visit at this time?” Family was by far the predominant reply: family, family, family.

So, to some extent it is going to be Christmas stripped bare. It’s love that is going to count the most. One could even go so far as to say that being together with loved ones is going to be the best present of all, even if we aren’t giving physical gifts this year.

This is a tough time. There is no certainty. It’s worse than a few months of siege. Right now, the news is mostly bad news: economic gloom and we have Brexit and COVID on top of each other and over 60,000 dead. When will we get back to normal?

Actually, the reality is that when all the sands are shifting, love is what we hold on to the most, and God is oh, so connected with love. Psalm 118: 7-8 says “the Lord is on our side. It is better to trust in the Lord than to trust in man”. Knowing that God loves you is fundamental in having confidence to get through anything.

Perhaps this is where the focus of the ministry of churches should be this Christmas. Using zoom, live streaming, online cell groups and whatever other platforms are available to the church to be the voice of certainty in these uncertain times. God is still the same. He has not forgotten us. He says, “my word will never pass away.” Mathew 24: 35.

The church is the teacher of the hope that God gives. He is the switch that turns on the light in the darkness for us. He gives us the courage to face the storms or the desolation. With attendance severely curtailed, having to rely on zoom and digital media, it’s the non-material which is going to matter the most. It’s going to be the love which comes through the smile on the TV screen, the assurance in the voice as it reads the scripture verse, the certainty of God  that comes in the sure and faith filled attitude of the Zoom presenter, when they have spent time in prayer, and have  battled with the satanic forces of panic in preparation for the media meetings.  It’s the spirit in the messages that are going to count this year.

There is no packaging – It’s all stripped down this Christmas. It’s only the substance, and wow, don’t we all need it! We are starving for the love, hope and certainty that God provides.