Last week I wrote about the very human tendency to put off until tomorrow anything that we plausibly can – particularly the difficult stuff! It usually isn’t the best of ideas, but then the old cliché goes, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.”
This week the scripture readings move us onwards in Advent. Today I’d like to focus on the hope and encouragement in the lectionary readings. They are not all joy and light – but then few things in life really are. The sole constants in the world are the light and love of God.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15.13).
This Christmas is going to be hard for so many people. This winter is a struggle for nearly everyone, in different ways. Every generation has had its struggles, but so many of the accustomed certainties and fixed points are being swept away in the avalanche that has been the past three years – and that avalanche shows few signs of slowing, even though it changes direction or intensity every so often.
I’m aware this may sound like clichés – but such metaphor is needed to acknowledge that we all face struggles of our own, and that those are part of the struggles of the world. The din and uproar of it all feels deafening, the tides threaten to pull us under emotionally, even physically at times.
And so it has been for almost every generation since the world began. The second half of the 20th century was, for a significant majority of people in Europe and the USA at least, a time of prolonged peace and relative security and certainty, and we became comfortable in that. That comfort is now unravelling. We are returning to the uncertainties that have been the human condition for millennia. And it’s not a pleasant experience.
But it is into precisely this kind of uproar and mess that God comes. Quietly, unobtrusively, often unobserved. Whispering calm words in the storm. Offering a hand to save us, when we are drowning and no one else seems to see. God comes to us in vulnerability and in understanding, in a form we can relate to – in Jesus.
As in Holman Hunt’s famous painting, He stands at the door and knocks. Will we let him in? And if we do, will we welcome him as a temporary visitor, or as family?
He speaks peace into the chaos. Calm into the storm. Presence into the loneliness. Strength in our weakness. And this is not just for a day, a week, a season. It is for always.
To adapt a very famous catchphrase: God is for life, not just for Christmas.
So, this Advent, this Christmas, and every day of your life to come: May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.