A second Christmas under COVID-19 was a hot topic in messages delivered by East Cobb ministers to their congregations on Christmas Eve.
But these sermons also broadened the context of familiar themes of inspiration that Christians seek as they celebrate the birth of Jesus, the formative event of their faith.
“Do you feel like the darkness is winning?” Mt. Bethel Church senior pastor Jody Ray said, repeating words from the book of Isaiah about how “those who walk in darkness have seen great light.”
“Jesus is the answer,” Ray said. “He is the light and he is the hope for the future.”
After telling the story of Charles Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’ – written after a long period of religious retreat in England – Ray admitted that ‘the last year has been difficult’, particularly with an ongoing pandemic resurfacing with the Omicron variant.
Economic pain, loss of loved ones, depression and addiction have been magnified as a result, he said.
“We know what darkness looks like, what it looks like,” he said. “We went.”
Ray called for a revival of the true spirit of the season, putting aside “secular gibberish” to “bring back what Christmas is all about”.
At Piedmont Church, the Reverend Ike Reighard delivered a similar message, noting how the task of discovering Christ is getting lost amid the holiday rush of gifts.
“You really find the presence of God in the extraordinary things of history,” Reighard said.
“We look for Christmas in what we want, but we really find it in what we need.”
He also urged his congregation to follow the admonitions of the angels to the shepherds in search of the baby Jesus: “Do not be afraid.
“There hasn’t been such an upheaval” in American society since World War II, Reighard said in reference to the present day, recounting economic and health concerns, as well as those of children whose young lives and education have also been particularly disrupted.
“God have you covered,” Reighard said, noting that there are 365 references in the Bible urging people not to be afraid — one for each day of the year.
At Hope Presbyterian Church, Reverend Martin Hawley also drew inspiration from the book of Isaiah to deliver a message of hope and light.
“King Jesus,” he said, came to earth to take “sin-dipped people like you and me and to fill our hearts with light.”
At the Lutheran Church of the Incarnation, Pastor Uijin Hwang drew inspiration from the birth of Christ in the book of Luke to proclaim that “Jesus Christ broke down the barriers between God and us. He made peace between God and us.
“His death on the cross paved the way for mankind to receive forgiveness and true life without ever being put to death,” he said. “If that’s not true peace, what is?”
The past year has also been difficult at one of East Cobb’s largest churches.
Ray did not refer The Month-Long Mount Bethel Conflict with the United Methodist Church which included him in the presentation of his UMC ministerial credentials.
He was held back by Mt. Bethel as he seeks to leave UMC, but the denomination’s North Georgia Conference filed a lawsuit in Cobb Superior Court.
In his Christmas Eve message to a congregation that claims more than 9,000 members, Ray brought home Isaiah’s promises of Jesus’ birth, exclaiming that “that baby was the message.
“He would come as a light and he would change the world and history. If you experience this tonight, it will also change your life.
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