Thursday, December 17, 2020

Advent Curiosity During Nor'easter + Pandemic in Worcester

When a Nor'easter hits your city during a pandemic, what does it mean to still wait, watch, and hope?

The last two times I had a similar moment's pause in a winter wonderland like today were: 

1) On the morning of February 16, 2015 in Worcester, when the real temperature outside was 30 degrees Fahrenheit; that day came after Winter Storm Neptune unleashed an onslaught of snow and wind that placed our beloved city as the #1 snowiest city in the U.S. in 2015, which included an accumulation of 103 inches at the time. 
2) On the evening of Thursday, January 4, 2018 when a snow cyclone called a bombogenesis hit Worcester and we had sick in-laws with the flu (thankfully, not COVID) in the house. And that wasn't even counting the subzero cold which was brutally breathtaking, as well as frustrating as it created frost in my attic every time I opened the door to get a book (my library was in the attic at the time). The Weather Channel's Jim Cantore said of that day, "For lack of a better analogy, we are getting absolutely puked on right now." Multiple school and businesses were closed, my in-laws flight was canceled and postponed, and the roads and hills were turned into bobsled tracks with some commutes lasting for hours just to go a few miles.

And guess what? While we're not on a record-breaking snowfall pace (yet), about a foot of snow canvased Worcester today. And despite the wicked winters that can bombard New England, there is always a curious perspective that can break into view. 

Today, during Winter Storm Gail, I still had my health and the strength and ability to step outside, breathe, and shovel. The winds kicked, the light and frothy snow swirled, and the drifts were blown everywhere. Including into my eyes, nose, and mouth. Repeatedly.

But as Annie said, "the sun will come out tomorrow."

It's amazing how good the slip of sunshine peeking between the clouds looked between 3-4 p.m. even when the temperature was a bit frigid. In fact, I would say that a glimmer of light like that can make all the difference for me when freezing snow is blowing directly into my eyes, and encrusting itself on my eyebrows, eyelashes, and beard.

The same could be said for what I have found in Jesus as the Light of the World (Sing Hallelujah!) the darkness cannot overcome during Advent. When I see Him break through the clouds of my life, and I understand again that "Light Has Come" that no darkness can overcome, it has made a difference even in the harshest emotional and physical conditions.  

If Jesus is the Lord is come that "Joy to the World" announces, and he has conquered sin and death (and I believe He has), He can overcome anything that makes me settle for lesser saviors in moments of suffering. Saint Paul also found this to be true in a cold, harsh prison, and he wrote it down for the church in Philippi:  

I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength (Philippians 4:11-13). 

So whether you believe Jesus to be a fantasy, a person, or perhaps Someone more as we near Christmas, I invite you to join me in taking a moment at the close of this Thursday to pray to the One who is Emmanuel, God with us:

Jesus, our Emmanuel, You are magnificent. Everything was created in You, through You, and for You. And during the course of an afternoon of shoveling snow in the midst of quick winds and chilly temps, I'm thankful that You are God with us. Though my efforts at shoveling may not seem like much as the snow continues to be tossed to and fro, Your efforts to save me will never be blown away. Though my sins are scarlet with my selfishness, apathy, stubbornness, and rebellion, You wash them white as snow. Thank You for Your faithfulness to me, my family, my neighborhood, and my city. Bless Worcester tonight during this pandemic. May all who do not have a home find a shelter to lay their heads and warm food to fill their bellies. May kindness be extended to neighbors without snowblowers and may muscles be strengthened to shovel for others who don't have the ability to clear their sidewalks and driveways. May You bring healing in Your mighty name to heal the symptoms of this virus and stop any after effects. May Your Good News be demonstrated and declared as You bring renewal, Your Light in the darkness tonight. I pray all these things in the waiting and watching with humility and hope because I get to pray in the name of the One who knows, pursues, and loves faithfully. May another person come to know You in this way fully today. Amen.

We can wait, watch, and hope in what Jesus has done for us and is doing for us even in the midst of a storm. We can have the freedom to expand our prayers to brace against the physical, emotional, financial, and spiritual storms of 2020 because He pursues us, endures with us, and His love is relentless. "Joyful Joyful We Adore Thee" indeed, Jesus.

P.S. For all my beloved neighbors who are looking for shelter from the storm tonight, please check out Grace Hotel at St. John's Catholic Church, 44 Temple Street, Worcester. You can learn more about Grace Hotel from Worcester Magazine's story from a couple years ago, "For homeless, a saving grace."

Christ is all,

Rev. Mike “Sully” Sullivan


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