Churches look for ways to evoke a true Christmas mass in COVID-19 pandemic

Father Remi Hebert of Grande Prairie's St. Joseph Catholic Church, shown on Wednesday Dec.16, 2020, is adapting to COVID-19 restrictions by offering Christmas masses online via Facebook Live. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Beauchamp

Here we are, at the fourth week of advent, less than a week before we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.

Advent encourages us to hold onto the promise — the greatest gift of all, Jesus, was given to guide us, our light through this troubled world.

You may have listened to these words from Handel’s Messiah, “for to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace, there will be no end,” are taken from the book of Isaiah 9:2,5–7.

“Messiah” was first performed in 1742 in Dublin. Handel wanted to capture the life of Christ. He created a piece based on three concepts: the story of the nativity and its prophecy; that of the crucifixion and redemption of humanity; and a commentary on the Christian soul and its victory over death.

God's macro story flows from the nativity scene to victory over death. I listen to the Messiah every year throughout the week before Christmas, even while I'm preparing the turkey. Listening to the Messiah has become a mainstay of the festive season throughout the world. A lovely way to help prepare us for the season.

As a child, my mother painstakingly decorated the house with silver, gold, and flickering candles. The house always seemed to take on a new sense of calm; it seemed more peaceful.

There was nothing more wonderous than turning off all the household lights, pausing, and gazing at the sparkling spruce. Complete with carefully wrapped gifts, the wonders I was waiting for — simple, delightful anticipation. I’m challenging myself in what feels like the busiest week to create sacred moments to connect with the story.

I would encourage you to do the same, whether sitting gazing at the lights, listening to your favourite Christmas carols or lighting a candle — don’t lose sight in the endless, troubling news. Take that moment to

contemplate a humble donkey who carried Mary and the unborn baby Jesus, the journey from the North to the Southern town of Bethlehem, following their divine instruction.

Or the shepherds who listened to the heavenly choir and walked into the little town, afraid but faithful. The kings who travelled the furthest, avoiding danger with Herod, who kept their eyes fixed on the star and chose a divinely directed route home.

Each person in the nativity story continued to listen and gaze on Jesus.

Let’s do the same, and allow our hopes and fears of all the years to be met in Him.

Merry Christmas.

Phil Collins is Pastor at Willow Park Church in Kelowna. His weekly spiritual column will return in the New Year.