How has the experience of this last year changed us? We have seen and many have experienced considerable suffering. We have seen in the midst of this suffering and arising from it, extraordinary examples of human love and service, not only in the NHS and the institutions of our country but also in communities across the land. We have seen suffering and we have seen compassion and love. Whoever we are, the pandemic will surely have had its impact on each one of us, shaking up what we thought we could take for granted. With so many deaths and bereavements and our own vulnerabilities to the virus, we have probably also thought more about death and our own mortality. When we do this we see, perhaps for the first time, the preciousness of life itself and the value of every human life. We begin to weigh up and see what actually matters most in life. For most of us, the answer to that question is love. The Bible teaches that where love is God is because God is love.
What Christians celebrate at Christmas and Easter – and indeed every day – is this very truth. God comes to us in Jesus to show us his love, to bring us forgiveness and to invite us into relationship with him. He promises not that there will be no suffering but that he will be with us in our suffering and that suffering and death are not the end of the story. Jesus, who, in his undying love for us, himself experienced great suffering and crucifixion at human hands is raised from the dead. He comes, still bearing the wounds of the crucifixion, to meet his disciples. He meets them where they are, not where they would like to be, but where they actually are. That is how he comes to meet us today, in the reality of our lives. Those first disciples, traumatized by the suffering and crucifixion of Jesus, put themselves into ‘lock-down’. They were so fearful that they locked themselves into a room. He came to meet them bringing them peace and joy and release from their fears.
I pray that each and all of us, of whatever faith or none, as we gradually step out of lock-down, may be bringers of hope, working together to build communities of compassion and care being especially mindful of those on the margins.