Daniel Harrell on Jesus Is the Light of the Lockdown

(Photo by Robert Nyman on Unsplash)

Daniel Harrell is editor in chief of Christianity Today.


Christmas promises to be more than memorable this year thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. Worshipers will find their celebrations of Jesus’ incarnation quarantined, their travel and family gatherings curtailed. Manger Square in Bethlehem on Christmas Eve will likely resound with comparative quiet, as will countless churches where “silent night” will have more to do with global angst than heavenly peace. Carols and sermons will occur online, alongside all the Christmas shopping.

The hopes and fears of 2020 are met in Jesus this Christmas. God in the flesh was born to us with every limit the Incarnation imposes. Could Jesus have contracted a virus? As he was fully human, we presume so. But as he was fully God, we likewise presume any virus only would have had power over Jesus if granted from above (John 19:11). Moreover, we presume Jesus could have repelled a virus as he cast aside Satan, though he characteristically eschewed using divine power for personal benefit (Matt. 26:53; Mark 15:30; Luke 4:23).

Among us mere humans, COVID-19 continues its spread like fire in a parched forest, without discrimination. It burns alongside hot civil unrest and intensely divided public discourse and politics worldwide. Pandemics show no partiality. Discrimination does happen among the cinders, however. The global poor, those without access to good health care, the elderly and already sick, minorities and the marginalized, essential workers, and those needing riskier work to make ends meet sink under the ashes. This may not be our last coronavirus Christmas. A vaccine holds promise, but it won’t immediately eradicate the viral threat, especially if there’s not universal availability or compliance, or if the virus mutates into a deadlier strain.

Whatever beauty ultimately arises from the ashes will be the work of the Spirit (Isa. 61:3). Disparities exacerbated by the pandemic between privileged and poor are those Jesus was born to confront (v. 1). As Mary sang of God at her son’s conception: “He has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty” (Luke 1:51–53).

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Source: Christianity Today