Opinions on the new Covid variant may leave us feeling anxious, angry or just plain weary. But the best way to deal with the uncertainty of Omicron is to focus on our security in Christ, and to turn outwards in love towards our neighbours, says Tim Farron
As advent begins, the excitement is building already towards Christmas Day. We don’t know the exact date that Jesus was born, but we do know that the first Christmas was a historical event that happened at a specific time. We also know that Jesus will come again. Only the Father knows when – but there can be no doubt that this, too, is a fixed event in time.
We look forward to many things in life that are far less secure. The new Covid variant, Omicron, highlights once again that all our earthly plans are at the mercy of God. James 4: 13-14 reminds us: “Now listen you who say, ‘today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money’. Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow! What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while but then vanishes.”
The best way to deal with the uncertainty of Omicron is to rest on our security in Christ
I feel like James 4 hovers all over the Covid pandemic. This week, once again, it feels like a timely rebuke to me personally. I am looking forward to Christmas, to time with family, time off from work and a festive visit to watch Blackburn Rovers… each to their own I hear you say. With the emergence of this new variant, many will feel despair. Is Omicron more infectious? More likely to get round vaccine protection? We don’t know yet but the newspaper headlines are already shouting about the need to “save Christmas”.
How should Christians respond? Perhaps we avidly follow what scientists say. Perhaps we feel out of control. Maybe we have even already thrown our face masks away. Probably we are simply weary of the whole thing.
Truth and trouble
When we hold God to promises he never made, it can cause us to feel disillusioned. We feel disappointed or crushed when those promises aren’t fulfilled. But God didn’t promise us a cosy Christmas. He didn’t promise us a summer holiday. He didn’t promise us that we could make plans and that all would go swimmingly. In fact, God promised trouble. In John 16:33 Jesus tells us that “in this world you will have trouble.”
But wait for what he says next “…but take heart! I have overcome the world.” What a claim! You can’t let that pass you by!
We are waiting to see if Omicron will disrupt our plans again. But in Advent we are waiting for the incarnation of God in human form and for his return. Jesus has been born, he has died for our sins, he will come again and he will redeem all who trust in him. These are the promises that God has made. You can have complete certainty in that. When we are in the boat in a storm, remember that he is in the boat with us. At Christmas we remember Emmanuel, God with us:
But trusting God doesn’t mean ignoring the virus. If we are going to take God at his word, then we must love our neighbour. That means being responsible towards others. Wearing a mask, getting the vaccine, following basic hygiene rules. A friend of mine, younger than me, has only just come off a ventilator having spend two weeks in hospital with Covid-19. This thing hasn’t gone away and we need to show love for our neighbours by protecting them from it.
Grace and action
We also need to pray for grace to respond to those who disagree with us. After nearly two years of Covid, there seem to be an alarming number of people holding covid-sceptic or anti-vaccine views who say that they are Christians. But we must remember that we should love the truth and not propagate untruths and half-truths that could cost people their lives.
God didn’t promise us that all would go swimmingly. In fact, God promised trouble
Recently, Lord Paul Boateng was my guest on the A Mucky Business podcast. He spoke passionately about the health needs of people in developing countries, and the very great risk to us all when only a small minority of people in these countries have been vaccinated. Without global vaccination, he warned, the virus stands a far greater chance of mutating into new strains. Paul has been proved right. Omicron seems to have evolved because of that very situation.
The Bible tells us that “perfect love drives out fear” (1 John 4:18). Perhaps the best way to deal with the fear and uncertainty of Omicron is to rest on our security in Christ, and to turn outwards in love towards our neighbours; keeping them safe by mask wearing and getting vaccinated; meeting their needs and pressing for our government to share vaccine with those countries much poorer than our own.