Among the less pleasant memories are the lines. (Eclipsed in memory only by the time our 11-year-old made it back to the hotel just in time to consecrate the carpet with an epic hurl.) Fortunately, one trip through Space Mountain was enough for me, so I haven’t had to endure that epic line since I was 17. Still, waiting is part of the experience; what one expects and what one prepares their kids for. We were lucky. Stick a book in their hands and our gang were content to scooch slowly through the line without ever raising their eyes. Once achieved, the end of the line usually delivered on the promised excitement or enchantment.
Now, 2021 sparkles with Disneylike promise: The vaccine! The vaccine! Ooh, Ooh! Mom! Canwecanwecanwecanwe!?! We give thanks for the tireless and ongoing effort of scientists who learned from the wisdom of those before them and churned out multiple vaccines in record time.
We give thanks for logistics and transport and manufacturing who get vaccine into the hands of the nurses, pharmacists, doctors, and technicians who will administer billions of doses in the coming years.
And we line up and wait.
And not just for the vaccine. Not much has changed yet about how we must live in the coming months. We must still mask, distance and forestall in-person worship. When we do come back, it will be staged and slow. Because getting everyone vaccinated will take time. So, we will not “go from 0 to 60,” as they say. We will follow the best science, scooch along, and continue to worship remotely for some months to come.
Waiting is difficult and heartbreaking; lonely and strange. Everyone is worn out. And human beings have endured seemingly endless hard times before. During the depression, folks weren’t given daily updates by their governors asking for patience, promising a not-too-distant end to their suffering. Wars would drag on as death tolls rose. Previous pandemics were much longer sieges than this one seems to indicate.
Empowered by the Holy Spirit, accompanied by God, human beings have proven again and again that we have the capacity to surprise ourselves and each other. As the people of God, we are part of an ancient, millennialong story of suffering, waiting and longing.
And then! In the incarnation, we are shown a God who enters fully into our suffering, waiting and longing with us. A God who shepherds us through. A God who redeems our murderous intent and gives us God-breathed peace. A God who birthed the church amid fear, grief and oppression. We were, in a word, built for this. We have the tools we need: God, neighbor, Word, bread and wine, water and music. And technology. We have each other, even at a distance. We are walking this road as one Body. We wait, but we wait together. And we wait in God.
According to a little tool on the New York Times site, there are roughly 268,000,000 Americans in line ahead of me. So, I will be loading up on reading while I scooch my way through the line and wait for my turn on the ride to pandemic freedom. Some of you have a FastPass and will already be vaccinated by the time this goes to print. I would consider you lucky, but I know the risk it cost you to find yourself at the front of the line. So, thank you. And embrace the hardearned ride.
Beloveds, we are nearly there and the end of the line doesn’t move faster. Breathe in that God-given peace, pray for and offer patience wherever and whenever you can. And know that you are missed, loved, and eagerly awaited when the time comes to finally line up for time with each other.
Blessings in what promises to be a truly new year in Christ.