The pandemic has brought about a lot of changes this year. For one, it has invoked a whole new meaning to the phrase “home for Christmas.” Sure, our holiday plans look quite a bit different this year, but one of my primary laments is I deeply miss church.
Many parts of the United States differ in their various COVID restrictions, but where I live in California, we have not been able to gather as a Body since March. Our church is one of the larger churches in San Jose, so we have had the ability and resources to produce a lovely online service. We can still have “church from home.” We still have worship. Our pastors still teach and speak to our hearts. We have had baptisms and guest speakers and missions updates. We take communion – separate but together. We meet for Bible studies, prayer groups, and other ministries throughout the week via Zoom. We were even able to dedicate our baby daughter this past spring!
But it is not the same. There is something about “going to church” in my jammies, sitting in the same place where I doodle on my phone and watch Purdue Basketball, while my kids jump around in the next room that makes it hard to be reverent and worshipful and receptive to the Spirit. Now, facing the prospect of celebrating Christ’s birth in my living room instead of alongside other believers, I feel a heavy weight, despair even. We celebrated Easter in the same vein, so why is this so different now? Perhaps it’s how I’m doing church at home (which I’ll address later), but mostly it’s fatigue.
It has been 9 months. I miss gathering. I miss hearing personal testimony and casually touching base and accountability. I miss feeling the presence of the Lord move through His people through corporate worship. I miss celebrating together and mourning together. I miss hugs.
“And let us consider one another in order to provoke love and good works, not neglecting to gather together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day approaching.”Hebrews 10:24-25, CSB
Fellowship and gathering are important to believers. If you have read any of my past blogs, you’ll know I have emphasized that we were created to be in relationships (Genesis 2:18). Humans thrive in community because we are His image-bearers (Genesis 1:26). Think of it this way, we are a spiritual family under one Father. We all reflect unique aspects of His character. We all have experienced Him in different ways. Yet, we all represent Him and show Him to each other. It is just like me and my two very different sisters, each reflecting bits and pieces of our parents. Individually, you might have an impression of our family, but the three of us together give a more complete picture of our family and life experience. Right now we all live far away from each other, but when we get together, I am renewed and reminded about who I am and where I come from. In the same way, when we are out of fellowship with God’s community, it’s not impossible to experience Him, but it is definitely harder. It’s easier to lose your sense of identity in Him.
We are now in the season of Advent, and we can look at this pandemic season as just that, a season. We know it will end, and we will soon gather again in person. The first week of Advent is focused on hope. In Christian faith, hope is not an empty word. It is backed by God’s promise (Joshua 23:14). In this pandemic season, we are uniquely positioned to hold onto our longing for corporate worship as a picture of our futures in heaven when we will worship our King free from death, grief, crying, and pain (Revelation 21:3-4). Just like Mary anticipating the arrival of her son and God’s people anticipating the arrival of their Savior, we can joyfully anticipate the time we can meet again and praise His holy name and our greater futures in heaven when we can worship freely forevermore.
In the meantime, “church from home” is better than no church at all. As I alluded to before, my attitude and posture were ill-equipped for worship and reverence. If you, like me, have a hard time getting into the right mindset from your living room, I would encourage you with the following tips:
- Pray beforehand. Ask the Lord to meet you in your home.
- Get dressed. Prepare like you would any usual Sunday.
- If possible, include your kids. If not, find an activity that will engage them for most, if not all, the service.
- Put your phone away.
- Stand for worship. Sing out even if it feels weird.
- Write things down. Take notes.
- Check in with church friends directly after service.
Finally, if you’d like to learn more about the importance of the body of Christ, I would encourage you to check out the plethora of incredible blogs on Community written by our All the More contributors.