Advent Message of Hope from Archbishop Craig Bates, Patriarch
There is now a psychological diagnosis known as “pandemic fatigue syndrome.” Medical personnel in the United States are saying this syndrome is responsible for an increase in alcoholism, drug addiction, food addiction, domestic violence, severe depression, and suicide. In addition, according to medical doctors and psychologists, there is an increase in anxiety disorders and phobias, especially germaphobia and agoraphobia. Many say it will be years before people will be able to rid themselves of these fears and phobias.
I have been confined to my house, like many my age, and my entire calendar was suddenly canceled. Just recently I have tried to get back into traveling but there are concerns about a second wave of the virus in the United States. Europe is already suffering from the second wave and several countries are back in “lockdown.” There are still restrictions on international travel and one can only guess when these will be released.
The pandemic has claimed the lives of several dear friends. Our communion is deeply saddened by these losses, especially the loss of Archbishop Dick Alcaraz. But priests, deacons, and many laypeople have also succumbed to this horrible virus.
Other events have impacted the world. There is a list of natural disasters. America, especially in the south, have been hit many times by hurricanes. East Africa experienced not only a plague of locusts but massive flood which destroyed crops and entire villages. Just recently a typhoon hit Luzon resulting in destruction for many and the loss of many lives.
Further, there is an announcement, as I write this, that there is a vaccine that would change the course of the pandemic and bring us back to “normal.” I am not sure if it is true but what I know is that everyone I talk to is hopeful about the future, even those who are known to speak about “gloom and doom”.
Advent is a season of hope. However, we look at the events around us from natural disasters, to civil wars, to the pandemic, or at the political landscape, Advent calls us to remember the God is with us – Emmanuel. Not only is God with us but, Jesus will return and will make visible the truth that His glory covers the face of the earth and His Kingdom is established wherever Jesus is King and His will is done on earth.
The message of the Church is hope, especially during suffering. Ours is a faith of crucifixion and resurrection. Our call is to be a crucified people who are emptying ourselves or denying ourselves for the sake of others. Amid the pandemic we saw the sacrificial and selfless service of so many in the medical profession. Little did many of the nurses and doctors realize as they witnessed the stark reality of death day after day that Christ had come among them in suffering. Little did they know that as they worked 12 hours shifts, that they were becoming Christ to those who were suffering and gasping for the very breath of life. Christ has not abandoned us and never will.
Christ has certainly not abandoned the Church of which He is the King. Christ will continue to suffer with the Church and in her suffering brings her to a new awakening of revival and reform. The Church, if she listens to His voice in repentance and prayer, will come out this pandemic and the other events of 2020, not having merely survived but resurrected, showing that light is greater than darkness and the grave cannot hold back the love of God.
All around the world, in ICCEC churches, God has been moving in ministry. The Church has found ways to work in and through the pandemic. The Church has continued to proclaim Christ the King despite the political climate around us. The Church continues lift her eyes and seek those things that are above.
Do not be afraid! Do not be discouraged! Do not fret! Do not worry! All along the Holy Spirit has been forming in us His image so that we are more and more a people of hope. We are becoming people of hope who change the environment around them and bring others in a life of liberation in Christ.
This Christmas we are called to be more aware than ever that God has come among us. God has entered our humanity by becoming human and remaining human. The hope of Christmas in found in Jesus who comes among us and comes among us as the least and weakest. In the life of an infant totally dependent on the humanity He created. What an act of love!
Let us reflect on this love during the Advent and Christmas Season. It is a love that will never let us down or disappoint us.
Under His mercy,
+Craig W. Bates