“Advent invites us to see clearly the challenges that are around us, and to pray for God’s response.”
I am expecting a very different Christmas this year, for which it’s very difficult to do too much planning.
Robyn and I can’t commit to particular plans around Christmas gatherings because very close to the date that we celebrate Jesus’s birth, we are expecting a birth, too! That makes this a time of anticipation and hope, tinged with some anxiety and discomfort.
It feels like a very big, universe-changing and life-changing event, as well as an intimate, tiny, vulnerable event. There are ways that it is both.
I find myself wondering – and praying – about the world into which this child will be born, and the Church that this child will find in their growing. The Uniting Church has an important place in sharing the gospel in Australia – that much is clear. But I wonder what the Church will look like as this new child grows into maturity.
Will they find the Church walking in Jesus’s way, finding strength and sharing hope as First and Second Peoples together? Indeed, will the whole nation have travelled further on the journey of Voice, Treaty and Truth-telling, and will we have owned our part in that journey? How will the church be expressing its rich multiculturalism?
In what ways will we have focused the use of our property and resources to best witness to and share Jesus’s transforming love – in worship, in the life of faith communities, congregations, and agencies, across all generations?
As I pray about these things I’m excited about what God will bring because the gospel will always be about transforming lives, in the sharing of God’s faithful love.
For some people around the Synod at the moment, there are more immediate concerns than thoughts about how the Church will look in the next decade.
For those who are dealing with the impact of the floods, in communities where homes, farmland and tourism are being struck, and where mosquitos are now rife, the impacts of the floods are going to be felt for a long time.
As the climate becomes more “energetic”, relearning how we live with the environment is going to be part of the context for the future church.
Advent is a time in the Church’s year that calls for a serious look at the state of the world. Advent draws our attention to the cries of the prophets and the Psalmists: longing for justice, longing for relief, longing for the fullness of the kingdom (or kin-dom) of God and for God’s will being done on earth as in heaven.
Advent invites us to see clearly the challenges that are around us, and to pray for God’s response.
God’s response in the first Advent was found in the birth of Jesus.
It can be read that the whole universe bent around this event, with animals and angels, people from varied cultures, and even the stars of the sky moved to focus on this event. Whether that’s read poetically or literally, it is the event which began a huge movement in this world: God taking vulnerable flesh, and leading the way in reconciliation and love, even by the path of the cross. This was a universe-changing event.
It was also an intimate event: in a tiny corner of Bethlehem, a tiny baby, cradled in the arms of a young mother, with Joseph at her side. The presence of God in intimacy and love.
The birth of Jesus also gives shape to our ministry and mission: God reaches out within humanity to share God’s life-transforming love.
I give thanks for the ways that the Church continues to reflect that through the gifting of the Spirit.
In this time of Advent, as I wait for the birth of a child, I pray for the Church’s continuing contribution to the shape of society and to the blessing of all God’s people in the years to come.
Peace and grace,
Rev David Fotheringham