Susanna Kokkonen
Speaker on anti-Semitism; the Holocaust; Persecution of Christians

Ending this year 2020

Spring Flowers 2020 by the blog author

This year 2020 has been a year of grace and mercy. Else, we do not know how things could have gone.

In February 2020, a team of three including myself, a nurse and a construction manager traveled to Africa to better understand a project. We gazed at our fellow-travelers in amazement if they chose to wear a mask. This was only a couple of weeks before lock-downs became common-place all over the world. Things happened very quickly. All non-essential travel was cancelled until further notice – that “further notice” has not come yet.

Our world, at least what we sometimes refer to, as the Western world, has become something of an exception in world history. Life is seemingly predictable and safe. 2020 showed us that safety is just an illusion. When you purchase insurance, it does not cover acts of G-d. Clearly, no insurer would cover COVID-19 and we need to wake up and see that it is time to humble ourselves, for our leaders to humble themselves, and seek mercy in this situation. The Bible, after all, says that “He delights in showing mercy” (Micah 7:18). This is not a matter of theology but of understanding that there are things beyond our control of which we have just seen one.

When this pandemic started, it was spring time. That may be why it felt less heavy, less depressing at that time. Some of us rather thought that this forced stop was very good for the mankind. It may be so but by now many people regardless of country or age feel sad, anxious and lonely. Every effort to contain the situation seems to target our physical health.

I sincerely hope that the bill for mental health won’t be too high by the time this ends. As older people, for instance, were isolated, there was an understanding that this happened for their health’s sake. But the question is if it was not important to find new and innovative ways to keep family connections and friendships going? Many elderly were not able to be online and needed a safe physical visit – surely not something impossible to organize. When are those human interactions needed more than in a situation like this?

It is now the time of Hanukkah and Christmas very soon. These are two different holidays but they are festivals of light and rejoicing. We talk about miracles in a season of darkness. Miracle of oil is all about light. Maccabees came up to Jerusalem and they won. The burning Menorah was a sign of that victory. Similarly, since last Sunday, candles have been light in many windows for the Advent. It is light we need to bring into the end of 2020. In the midst of lock-downs and seemingly confusing messages and orders, light is needed so we can receive 2021 with faith and courage. Those two are closely related to miracles. I would think that when we talk about miracles, we mean the existence and appearance of someone stronger than ourselves. We mean that there was something supernatural that took place and for a moment managed to bend natural laws.

Last year, looking at fireworks and thinking about the figure “2020”, I believed from all of my heart that it was going to be a special year. Little did anyone know what surprises were headed our way. This time I want to remind all of us that there is no security except in what is truly secure and ever-lasting. “…Underneath are the everlasting arms…” (Deuteronomy 33:27).

Spring flowers look tiny and weak when they appear from under the snow. But this is a message of hope. Happy Season of Lights, 2020!

About the Author
Dr. Susanna Kokkonen, originally from Finland, lived in Israel for twenty years. She has a Doctorate in Holocaust Studies. She has pioneered Jewish-Christian relations including at Yad Vashem, as the Director of the Christian Friends of Yad Vashem. She travels around the world speaking in churches, synagogues and civic gatherings. Her book 'Journey to the Holocaust' is available in Finnish, Swedish and English translations.
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