‘Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
Till He appear’d and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.’
I’ve remarked in previous posts how much I love Christmas; though it is nowhere near Christmastime, I was reminded today of some words from one of my favourite Christmas hymns, ‘O Holy Night’ by Adolph Adam (English version by John Sullivan Wright). I’ve always been touched by the second half of the first verse (printed above), in which the writer notes how the world ‘lay(s) in sin and error pining’, waiting for the breaking of hope in Christ.
Lockdown has felt a little like pining: painful longing, languishing and waiting, even though we don’t know exactly what we’re waiting for! What will rescue us? Is it a vaccine? Herd immunity? Even the experts don’t know. In the meantime, we feel deprived of the fullness of relationships; our productivity is burdened by isolation or—for many of us—is gone entirely; we are keenly aware of our personal and collective fragility. We wait in a broken world for the dawning of hope.
I am encouraged, though, because the enforced waiting or ‘pining’ for hope and salvation from this virus is a picture, writ small, of the world’s weariness and need for newness, wholeness and rejoicing. Lockdown has reminded me of the truths we tend to return to at Christmas: that the world is waiting and longing for hope it can’t provide for itself. At the first Christmas, this hope came in the form of a child; now, we wait not for the baby Jesus, but for the King’s return in glory, eager for the day when our relationships with others will reach their true fullness, when the world will enter God’s rest, relieved of its weariness, and when sickness and death vanish forever—Covid-19 with it. And for this salvation, we can wait with great hope and certainty; as the writer of Hebrews said, ‘Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.’ (Hebrews 11:1, NIV). We may have no confidence in the efficacy of vaccine trials or government plans, but we can have full confidence in Christ and his plan for healing.
In the meantime, the whole world waits and pines, but salvation is coming! Hallelujah!