Merry Christmas from the Herschberger's
Dear family and friends,
What can be said about 2020 that has not been said?
Let’s just say I have found a lot of comfort this year in the Old Testament prophets. I feel they would have understood our times -- plague, famine, justice literally lying in the streets.
This morning, I read some very simple words, “Behold the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.” It's just such a simple statement, “a lamb that takes away the sin of the world.” I kept saying it over and over to myself. It's not a march, it's not a vaccine, it's not federally imposed law and order, it's not an election, it's not a wall, it’s not religion, it's not a Supreme Court decision, and it's not a stimulus bill. It's a lamb that will right the wrongs of 2020.
Granted, I don’t have much to complain about personally.
I have had steady work. Logan got accepted into LeTourneau University and earned a couple college credits during his Junior year of High School. Liam entered High School and is loving the quieter quarantine life. Linda was able to keep the community garden growing in spite of fears to the contrary. No one told the daffodils about COVID, so they looked beautiful.
When the pandemic hit and my largest program was closed down, I was given the opportunity to lead some relief work. We were able to raise money for 3 local churches and a community association to give out food in the neighborhood. It was all very new to me, and I found it quite inspiring to be in the thick of it. When LeTourneau classes got hard for Logan, a gracious friend agreed to tutor him. Having good people in the lives of our teenagers is priceless. When the quarantine got long, Liam and I and about a dozen local folks started playing frisbee in the park. It's become a weekly tradition loved by all. If only it was videotaped, I could show a highlight reel and maybe a bloopers tape too. Such good wholesome fun! In August, we were able to take another trip to one of our favorite places, Frieda and Andy Miller’s in Canon City, Colorado. I just can’t get enough of those hills. Linda rallied a band of junior high girls to read through the whole Bible this year. Some of those days in Leviticus were long, but the thoughtful chatter during their weekly check-in is enough to warm anyone’s heart.
In spite of all the blessings, the tears in 2020 did come. Again, the prophets speak my language:
”Since my people are crushed,
I am crushed;
I mourn, and horror grips me.
Is there no balm in Gilead?
Is there no physician there?
Why then is there no healing
for the wound of my people?”
In April, COVID hit its peak in NYC. Never before was the city so quiet. It was eerie as the sirens just kept droning on. We lost seven in our circle of acquaintances. Three friends from church worked long hours and shared sad stories from the front lines. Then there was George Floyd’s murder. In 8 minutes and 46 seconds all the pain of 400 years came flooding back into the hearts of local folks. It was hard to watch them carry all of that. Like a lynching displayed in slow motion, it brought waves of grief too painful for most to bear. All we could do was go to vigils. Have you ever sat in silence on the asphalt for 8:46? Me neither, until 2020.
And Linda’s mom was diagnosed with cancer . . . again. Miraculously, we were given a house in Indiana for a two-week quarantine, so we could visit her. It was a surreal “vacation” we will not soon forget. We are incredibly grateful for the time we could spend with her and thankful she is doing well.
And we still grieve.
There was something more -- How can I say this tactfully? -- a disease worse than COVID took over our country in 2020. The cynicism, the blame, the conspiracy theories, the skepticism, the anger where there should have been compassion -- these made up the hardest part of 2020 for me. When we were at our lowest, much of the Body was at its furthest. Again, the prophets know about these things, and there are always exceptions to be sure, and we thank you. We will, however, carry the internal wounds of 2020 for a very long time. We are learning to listen again and see the different kinds of pain in all people, and that has been healing..
Amid this alienation within the Body of Christ there was also connection. Our Body here rallied to help the community. Some friends started Restorative Faith, an online group working toward authentic faith and social justice, the kind that restores through the Gospel. It was beautiful how God connected us. The online events and discussion groups have been a balm from Gilead. I ended up reviving my blog (www.lajourney.net) ‘cause I just had to tell someone about the grace greater than all our sin.
Yes, 2020 has been one for the history books. We will remember that pain for the rest of our lives. It was so multi-layered and complex, yet, the simple words come back;
“Behold, the Lamb of God which takes away the sin of the world.” As I read that phrase, I can’t help asking myself, “If that’s true, then why am I trying so hard to take it away by myself?” Like Peter who couldn’t make sense of a Savior who is kneeling before him with a wash basin, I prefer to try to clean things up myself.
No, the Lamb has come to take away the sins of the world, to wash off the pain of the crowd at the BLM march, to call the murdered back to life, to carry the “government on his shoulders,” to be the “wonderful counselor,” to “renew the ruined cities,” to heal us from COVID, to season our social media feed “with salt,” to “wipe all tears” from our hearts, and “make all things new,” so a crowd “from every tribe and nation” can join together at dinner. Just a Lamb, that’s enough to take away the sin of the world.
He’s enough. It really is a Merry Christmas.
- Lowell, for the Herschberger’s