Just as we thought Covid-19 was on its way out at last there is another twist in the tale and the Omicron variant makes its ugly appearance. This newly named variant has brought together many of the mutations seen over the past 2 years and added a bit more to make it into a super infectious version that is likely to evade our immune system defences. This is why scientists are worried. However this is not the time to panic but to heed the Advent message: Be vigilant!
The watchmen - in this case scientists in Africa - have sent out the word and have rung the warning bell. Their action has bought a little time for others to get ready. We are not in the same position as Spring 2020. The Government have already taken some actions to slow the spread of Omicron with travel bans and a compulsory self isolation and PCR test for anyone coming into the country. The medics are busy getting the new antiviral medications in stock and working out how best to use them. The rest of us must also play our part too by making sure we are fully vaccinated, by wearing our face coverings on public transport and in shops and staying home if we have any kind of cold symptoms to avoid spreading germs as we try to protect one another as best we can.
So we really must arise this Advent and face the challenge no matter how weary we are of all these public health restrictions because in doing so we help to protect the lives of others. We will want to look back on this time - and yes there will be an 'after Covid' time - and say 'we did all we possibly could' - it's our chance to feel part of something as we all pull together in the face of a common enemy. So no delaying we need to be ready - and we can draw on that Advent message so often drowned out by a rush to singing Christmas songs and carols: this is the season of hope and peace for everyone of good will. This year we have an opportunity to make this so for one another by the way we behave in the next few weeks.
As a way of balancing out the gloom of the Covid news and the shortest days we can turn to the Advent services on Sundays with their rich tapestry of readings and glorious hymns. We can also join Advent groups online (reduce our social mixing!) such as the ones being offered by the Corrymeela Community and a great tradition is the Advent service broadcast from St John's College, Cambridge on Advent Sunday.
Respond in the light of omicron (= the little 'o') approaching but remember Jesus is the 'Omega' - the Great 'O' who comes in the middle of the night to bring us light. Yay, Amen let all adore him