For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding itwith justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this. (Isaiah 9. 6 – 7)
Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times. He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. (Micah 5. 2, 4)
Last Sunday was the first Sunday of Advent, although Advent calendars did not begin until Wednesday on the first day of December. I had carefully sought out a ‘real’ Advent calendar for the grandchildren, which has a large nativity picture and tells a bit of the Christmas story day by day as each window is opened. These days such calendars come complete with chocolate and a little story book. When I was a child there was no chocolate, but I still remember the excitement and delight at the unfolding story. We had a daily ritual of opening each little window in the morning before setting off to school, and we would marvel at Joseph and the pregnant Mary setting off on the long and dangerous journey to Bethlehem.
Every day we hear of hundreds of people setting off on dangerous journeys in anticipation and hope of a better life, away from the horrors of war and extreme poverty. They are so desperate they will risk everything, even the perilous journey by flimsy inflatable boat across the Mediterranean or the English Channel, all too often with tragic consequences.
It is easy to forget Advent as we become caught up in the commercial push towards Christmas. However, in the church, it is the beginning of the new church year. This is traditionally a time of watching, waiting and anticipation, a time of preparation for the coming of Jesus, not only remembering his birth as a baby but also looking towards his second coming as the King of kings, who will establish the kingdom of God and rule with wisdom and righteousness. And how we need that rule of wisdom, righteousness and compassion.
The Prophets, Isaiah and Micah, looked forward to the coming of the Messiah, who would rule wisely and fairly. Bethlehem appeared small and insignificant, and yet it was there that the Messiah would be born into poverty and vulnerability. This is a saviour, whose life would soon be threatened and who would himself become an asylum seeker in Egypt in early childhood. Jesus can identify himself with homeless refugees from first-hand experience.
As you allow the Advent anticipation to build, why not commit to praying for the refugees and asylum seekers on their difficult journeys each day through to Christmas.
In our watching and in our waiting, come, Lord Jesus. In the dark places of this world, come, Lord Jesus.
In lives of fear and anguish, come, Lord Jesus. Amen.
Christ, be our light by Bernadette Farrell