Christmas Eve candlelight services have always been special to me, as I am sure they are to many others. The passing of a flame from candle to candle as the sanctuary moves from darkness to light is a beautiful and meaningful representation of Jesus coming into the world. As an epidemiologist (a public health professional and preventive medicine advocate), I fear that these beautiful services could become superspreader events this year. Sitting inside shoulder-to-shoulder, singing carols, passing the peace of Christ, and lighting candles together are all activities that increase the spread of COVID.
How can we keep our Christmas Eve services safe for everyone in our community this year?
It is quite simple: Churches should require that everyone wears a mask. Masks are an important means of protecting yourself, protecting others, and slowing the spread of COVID in our community.
This year my Christmas wish is for the spread of COVID to slow in our community. I want to see hospitalizations and deaths from COVID decrease.
In order for these wishes to come true, we all must recognize that the pandemic continues to rage and we, as individuals, are each responsible for creating a healthy environment for all. As we celebrate the birth of Jesus, I am reminded of his commandment to love our neighbors (Luke 10:27). Amid the current COVID surge where there is literally no room at our local hospital, we can show this love by masking during all of our Christmas Eve services and preventing the further spread of this disease. Together we can work towards creating a healthy community for all — just by wearing a mask.
For all of the Christians who are celebrating this week, let the focus of the candles be a reminder of who Jesus is. Let us work together to prevent the spread of disease by wearing a mask so that the fire does not become a metaphor for how simply/quickly an airborne communicable disease can spread throughout churches and communities.
Wear a mask and Merry Christmas!
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