Keeping Vigil

By Kris Bruun

Louisa May Alcott’s classic, Little Women, begins with the sentence, “Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents.” I understand how Jo March feels. As the weeks wear on, and our holiest week approaches, I’ve read posts and heard people speak of “postponing Easter.” It’s tempting to think of all we will miss this year (no Easter egg hunt, no special congregational brunch) and sigh that “Easter won’t be Easter.”

But, of course, it will be.

Maybe it is because I am old(er), but I have experienced many Easters and many Holy Weeks. Some have been gloriously happy. I wrote in my journal one Easter, “I never wanted that service to end. I wish I could feel like this all the time, such a sense of belonging, a sense of being in the right place.” Not possible to feel like that all the time, of course. I have also had dark seasons, and times when I spent Holy Week alone, attending a strange church, a face in a crowd, going home to dinner for one.

The wonder of it is that in every season, Jesus comes to me NOW, whenever, wherever NOW is, to strengthen and to support me, to comfort and to console me.

For this Holy Week, which will be like no other (we all hope!), I want to keep my mind on Jesus. I have taped a list to my bathroom mirror. Whenever I wash my hands, I call to mind Jesus washing the disciples’ feet, and I pray for someone on my list. Family, friends, healthcare workers, people on the front lines – I have room to add people as I think of them.

I am writing more letters than usual, taking the time during Holy Week to reach out in a different way to people I might otherwise pass by. In one of my Sunday school classes (taught online), I encouraged the kids to make cards. I’m doing it, too.

I will keep vigil on Holy Saturday evening. Sheltering in place, I will read the great stories of creation and exodus, and pray the litany of all those to whom I am connected, beginning with my family and reaching to the farthest corners of the earth. Just as I prayed for Australians when their land was on fire, I can pray now for the “hot spots” of the United States or for the people of the subcontinent of India. We are one family.

I expect I’ll fall asleep at some point. I know the early Christians prayed all night until the sun rose, but they were tougher than I am.

But I will set my alarm to be there for the 6:30 a.m. “sunrise service,” and I’ll open up YouTube to hear my pastor proclaim: “Jesus Christ, yesterday, today, and forever. All time belongs to Him and all ages.” Even this one.

In Little Women, Jo March and her three sisters go on to learn that Christmas in wartime can be just as meaningful in its own way, as they sacrifice their meager savings to buy gifts for their mother and give up their Christmas brunch to feed a starving immigrant family.           

Of course, I look forward to being able to come back together and have one splendid reunion party. We will be welcoming a new Director of Christian Education and her husband into our family this summer, too, another reason for a season of rejoicing. But do I feel that it will not be Easter until we can do this? No.

Will this Holy Week be like all the others? Well, no. But I’m OK with that.

Because, truthfully, none of the others have really been the same, either.

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