Yesterday was our fortieth Sunday on Zoom. That it coincided with Advent 4 is, in part, due to the fact that lockdown coincided more-or-less with the Annunciation, and the liturgcial nicety that Mary's pregnancy was textbook duration lasting from 25 March to 25th December (yes, I know...!).
Forty, though, is a Biblical number that symbolises 'a lot of...'
Forty days in the wilderness/desert for Jesus, echoing forty days in the wilderness/desert for the emergent nation of Israel... a lot of days, a lot of years. A liturgical nicety, not, most probably, a historical accuracy.
For me, these past forty weeks have flown by, and I am humbled and proud in equal measure at the resileince of our church community who have Zoomed in week by week, who have adapted and adjusted to whatever it has taken for us to journey onwards in this strange season, in this peculiar virtual land.
We don't neatly come out of this after forty Sundays, we have no way of knowing when we will reach 'the other side' but we believe we will. Just as the Israelites didn't know when they'd arrive in the Land of Promise. Just as Jesus didn't have a neat forty day calendar for his sojurn (pace 'forty days of...' study scheme writers). Just as Mary almost certainly didn't give birth precisely nine months to the moment of conception.
Perhaps I am odd, but I find that comforting... that even God who, presumably could if God so-desired, make eveything neat and tidy and precise, is content with things 'taking as long as they take...' Forty days, forty weeks, forty years... a lot of them, anyway.
So, may the God of 'lots of days, weeks, months, seasons and years' lead us onwards, for as long as it takes, and lead us to the 'beyond' wherever, whatever, that is, in God's own time.