A few months ago, in the midst of one of the seemingly endless Covid cycles we keep finding ourselves in, I read something by someone (I can’t remember who) who spoke about having Covid–of–the–Soul. She spoke of the anxiety and exhaustion she felt not just due to worrying about Covid but also due to the division and anger this pandemic has contributed to and escalated. Soon after, a brother in Christ lamented to me the incivility and foul language that seems to have become so commonplace and acceptable these days. We can all relate, can’t we? Well, if you’re wondering if you might be suffering from COVID–of–the–Soul, I’d like to suggest some possible symptoms. They include:

Finding yourself being annoyed with others, including those who are close to you, rather than wanting to understand and love them;

Related to this, you may be feeling a low-grade anger that occasionally rises to fever pitch over the slightest provocation;

You may be feeling impatient and irritable;

Or perhaps you’re experiencing an inability to understand those with whom you disagree—especially since the way you see things is so clearly correct!;

Are you angry about the lack of consideration from others—especially those who keep telling you what you should and shouldn’t do?

Are you feeling despair over the current—or past—presidential administration?

Has all of this made you weary with worry? weary with living? weary with persevering?

If you’re currently experiencing or have experienced more than one of these symptoms, then I’m sorry to have to break the bad news to you: You may be on your way to catching a case of Covid–of–the–Soul. And I want to encourage you not to ignore these symptoms because, left untreated, a full blown case of Covid–of–the–Soul is able to become poisonous, resulting in the illness and even death of your soul.

Now this Christmas Eve evening, I’m here to bring you tidings of comfort—and joy! For this Christmas Eve evening, I’m here to tell you that Covid–of–the–Soul isn’t a new affliction, but an old one. For God who made us and left us his Holy Word, as recorded and preserved in the Old and New Testament Scriptures, has not only diagnosed Covid–of–the–Soul but has provided an antidote for it. He’s provided all we need in order to counteract this particular poison. And to demonstrate that Covid–of–the–Soul isn’t a new affliction, listen to some of the ways I’ve reframed Proverb 29’s teaching to illustrate that both Covid–of–the–Soul and Healthy Souls have ever been with us:

Those with Covid–of–the–Soul remain “stiff-necked after many rebukes” and, consequently, “will suddenly be destroyed—without remedy” (verse 1);

When the wicked, those who already have Covid–of–the–Soul, rule “the people groan;” but a Healthy Soul knows that “When the righteous thrive, the people rejoice” (verse 2);

Those who squander their wealth on prostitutes have Covid–of–the–Soul; but a Healthy Soul knows that “A man who loves wisdom brings joy to his father” (verse 3);

The greedy for bribes have Covid–of–the–Soul and, consequently, tear a country down; but a Healthy Souls knows that “By justice a king gives a country stability” (verse 4);

“Those who flatter their neighbors” have Covid–of–the–Soul and “are spreading nets for their feet” (verse 5);

“Evildoers” have Covid–of–the–Soul and “are snared by their own sin;” but a Healthy Soul knows that “the righteous shout for joy and are glad” (verse 6);

Again, the wicked, those who have Covid–of–the–Soul, have no concern about justice for the poor; but a Healthy Soul, “The righteous(,) care about justice for the poor” (verse 7);

Mockers have Covid–of–the–Soul and therefore “stir up a city;” but a Healthy Soul, “the wise(,) turn away anger” (verse 8);

“The bloodthirsty” have Covid–of–the–Soul and so “hate a person of integrity and seek to kill the upright” (verse 10);[1]

“Fools” have Covid–of–the–Soul as evidenced by their giving “full vent to their rage;” but the wise, the Healthy Souls, “bring calm in the end” (verse 11);

A ruler with Covid–of–the–Soul “listens to lies” and, consequently, “all his officials become wicked” (verse 12); but a king with a Healthy Soul “judges the poor with fairness” and “his throne will be established forever” (verse 14);[2]

And yet again, when the wicked, those with Covid–of–the–Soul, “thrive, so does sin;” but the righteous, those with Healthy Souls, “will see their downfall” (verse 16);[3]

Covid–of–the–Soul multiplies when “there is no revelation”—that is, no acceptance of God’s Word. When this happens, people end up casting “off restraint;” however, Healthy Souls multiply and are blessed because they heed “wisdom’s instruction” (verse 18);[4]

Covid–of–the–Soul is found in “someone who speaks in haste.” “There is more hope for a fool than for them” (verse 20);[5]

So, too, a servant who has been “pampered from youth” is likely to develop Covid–of–the–Soul and “turn out to be insolent” (verse 21);

So, too, an “angry person” who “stirs up conflict” is well on their way to becoming infected with Covid–of–the–Soul for “a hot-tempered person commits many sins” (verse 22);

Covid–of–the–Soul can come about by way of pride which “brings a person low;” but a Healthy Soul is one that is “lowly in spirit.” Such humility will result in gaining honor (verse 23);

“The accomplices of thieves” display Covid–of–the–Soul and “are their own enemies; they are put under oath and dare not testify” (verse 24);

So, too, those who “fear man” may have Covid–of–the–Soul. Such fear “will prove to be a snare;” but a Healthy Soul will fear and trust in the LORD and thus be “kept safe” (verse 25). Similarly, those with Covid–of–the–Soul misplace their hope and end up seeking “an audience with a ruler;” but those with a Healthy Soul know that “it is from the Lord that one gets justice” (verse 26);

In summary, whereas the righteous, those with Healthy Souls, “detest the dishonest,” those who are wicked, those with Covid–of–the–Soul “detest the upright” (verse 27).

So we find in Proverb 29 a vivid reminder that division—and anger—and cheating—and oppression—and raging—and scoffing—and stealing and all of the poor behavior we daily hear about in the news—is nothing new. These symptoms of Covid–of–the–Soul have ever been with us. And, if we’re honest, we’ll admit that we ourselves, at least at times, have demonstrated by our thoughts, emotions, and behavior that we, too, have suffered from Covid–of–the–Soul.

Fortunately, Scripture is clear that God who made us wants the best for us—his best. He who made us in his image; he who made us for himself, wants us to have Healthy Souls, not sick ones. Because he loves us. And because he loves us, he knows that walking in the way of a Healthy Soul—that is, a Holy Soul, a Soul without Sin—is how we can not only survive life’s challenges, but thrive in the midst of them. Therefore, we should ever seek to have Healthy Souls: to be among those who live in a righteous manner—and love wisdom—and love justice—and care for others—including, or especially the poor—and love God and his Word—and live humbly—and turn to God at all times, in all circumstances, for all things.

But our problem and challenge is that we can’t have Healthy Souls by our own doing. No, in order to have a Healthy Soul, we need a Savior to heal us from our propensities to Covid–of–the–Soul; who can deliver us away from our sin and into the loving embrace of our Father in heaven. This is the message that Zechariah, father of John the Baptist, pronounces at the end of the first chapter in the Gospel of Luke. There we find the song that Zechariah, “filled with the Holy Spirit,”[6] sang and prophesied. The focus of his song is “the Lord, the God of Israel” whom he praises—as stated in verses 68–69—“because he has come to his people and redeemed them. 69 He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David.” This salvation includes “salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us” (verse 71) as the Lord displays his mercy in keeping his promise, verses 74–75, “74 to rescue us from the hand of our enemies, and to enable us to serve him without fear 75 in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.” It is only by God’s enabling that we can serve him in such a manner. It is only by God’s enabling that our Covid-filled souls can become healthy and whole.

Zechariah next turns the focus of his song to his recently born baby, John the Baptist, who, as stated in verse 76, “will be called a prophet of the Most High.” The Most High is, of course, Jesus Christ, John’s relative, who is also God.[7] Jesus is the eternal Son of God, the Christ, the Messiah, sent by the Father to the virgin Mary who was enabled to give him birth by the power of the Holy Spirit.[8] This Triune working of God is how he chose to carry out the salvation he promised. Later in life, John the Baptist will fulfill his father Zechariah’s prophecy stated beginning in the second part of verse 76. For he “will go on before the Lord”—that is, Jesus—“to prepare the way for him, 77 to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins.” In other words, John will set the groundwork for the salvation that Christ Jesus came to earth to offer by letting people know that the only way they can have “knowledge of salvation” is “through the forgiveness of their sins.” Jesus later confirmed this declaring, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”[9] In this we see that Jesus is the only way that God the Father has provided to heal Covid–of–the–Soul and thereby create in us, by the cleansing power of the Holy Spirit, a Healthy Soul that is holy as he is.

Zechariah states that this “knowledge of salvation” that comes “through the forgiveness of…sins” is due to one thing and one thing only. As recorded beginning with verse 78, it is “78 because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven 79 to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.”[10] Did you catch that?

It’s because of God’s tender mercy that we’re able to have “knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of [our] sins;”

It’s by God’s tender mercy that God’s Messiah,[11] “the rising sun”—s-u-n—“will come to us from heaven.”

But it’s also by God’s tender mercy that our heavenly Father sent his Son—S-O-N—from heaven. All of this occurred in fulfillment of God’s promises[12] for he knew that his Son was the only means of healing our Covid-sick souls.

Dear sisters and brothers, not just those living in our day but all who have lived since the time of the Fall are “living in darkness and in the shadow of death.” For the Fall of our first parents planted the seed of Covid in souls that were once healthy. This corrupting seed in our souls will result in eternal death unless we accept the awesome gift of God’s Son who was sent, as a babe in a manger, to show us our sin in order that we might turn away from it and turn instead to him and so receive the eternal life he so freely bestows upon all who do. For the birth of Messiah, the birth of Christ Jesus, is the only cure God has provided for the Covid–of–the–Soul that afflicts us all. He is the only one who can give us his peace; he is the only one who, by his Word and Holy Spirit, can “guide our feet” in its path.

Indeed, the only antidote, the only medicine, able to counteract the devastating effects of the Fall, the poison of Covid–of–the–Soul, is to be found in believing and receiving Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord. These are the tidings of comfort and joy that we’re here to celebrate tonight. We’re here to celebrate that silent and holy night when Jesus Christ, Son of God, first came to this world of death and darkness to shed his life and light. For that babe in the manger went on to take upon himself the sins and eternal death that were our due and by dying and rising from death conquered Satan, sin, and death itself.

May we never forget that this very Jesus, the Savior, having ascended to the right hand of the heavenly Father, yet reigns and rules the world with truth—and grace—and wonders of his redeeming love! And one day he’ll return to destroy, once and for all, Satan—and all evil—and death—and Covid–of–the–Soul and all things that now harm us—when he ushers in his loving and eternal kingdom of peace.

Let us pray.

[1] Proverb 1:9, which I’ve skipped over, states: If a wise person goes to court with a fool, the fool rages and scoffs, and there is no peace.

[2] Proverb 1:13, which I’ve skipped over, states: The poor and the oppressor have this in common: The Lord gives sight to the eyes of both.

[3] Proverb 1:15, which I’ve skipped over, states: A rod and a reprimand impart wisdom, but a child left undisciplined disgraces its mother.

[4] Proverb 1:17, which I’ve skipped over, states: Discipline your children, and they will give you peace; they will bring you the delights you desire.

[5] Proverb 1:19, which I’ve skipped over, states: Servants cannot be corrected by mere words; though they understand, they will not respond.

[6] Luke 1:67: His father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied.

[7] See Luke 1:31–33. What Zechariah is prophesying is consistent with what the angel Gabriel disclosed to Mary when he appeared her: “31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

[8] See sermon preached on December 19, 2021, Mary, Pregnant with Immanuel, on Matthew 1:18–25.

[9] Luke 5:31. See parallel in Mark 2:17: On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

[10] Emphasis added.

[11] Isiah 60:1–3 promises the Messiah using similar language: “1 Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.; See also Malachi 4:1–2: “Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and the day that is coming will set them on fire,” says the Lord Almighty. “Not a root or a branch will be left to them. But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays. And you will go out and frolic like well-fed calves.

[12] Isaiah 9:1–2: 1Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the nations, by the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan— The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.