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Advent is a love-letter from God to humanity

Updated: Nov 29, 2023

At this time of year, as night falls earlier and earlier, I like nothing better than having a real fire in our sitting room. Within a short time of getting the fire going, the rest of the family, including Humphrey (our very unpredictable cat), will have come together to enjoy the comforting warmth and light. There’s something very primal about it, we all have good reason to fear the darkness, both literally and metaphorically. We live in a world that can sometimes seem almost irretrievably dark and grim and without much hope.

Over the last few years, we’ve experienced a pandemic, an unthinkable war on Europe’s doorstep with the invasion of Ukraine and now the barbarism of Hamas’s attack on innocent Israeli civilians followed by the suffering of untold numbers of equally innocent Palestinians in Gaza. As I write this letter, a temporary ceasefire is in place to enable the exchange of Israeli hostages and Hamas prisoners held in Israel. Pray God, the ceasefire will hold, and that the international community may succeed in persuading both sides to find a way to end the violence, but sadly, it feels like we’ve been here before, and peace with justice remains a long way off. What will it be like for displaced Gazans and anxious Israelis hoping to be reunited with loved ones, while we’re celebrating Christmas, the birth of the “Prince of Peace” with our loved ones?

Yes, it's easy to understand why people lose hope in life and in humanity. Yet there is hope, real hope, not just some fuzzy feeling of hapless optimism that things will probably turn out alright in the end! We have hope because Advent is nothing less than a love-letter from God to humanity, telling us that the light will dispel the darkness of our human condition and that nothing can ever overcome it. Not even the worst of the world’s calamities can stand against the love of God as the “Prince of Peace” is made known to us in human form, in the vulnerability of a baby, born in a

region of the Middle East under military occupation and in the inadequate shelter of a stable.

Advent is more than the anticipation of Christmas; it is also a challenge and a wake-up call to us all. Advent is an invitation to prepare ourselves spiritually for Christmas, by reflecting on God’s great gift of love to the world in Jesus Christ and asking ourselves how we can respond to that love in our lives and through our actions. In the face of such immense global challenges as face our world today, we are called not to lose Hope, but to take Hope.

We should not think that there is nothing we can do as individuals to change this world for the better, even though our own personal influence may seem very small. We can pray, and when we pray, we are changed by the experience of our prayer and so, others with whom we interact are influenced, and so the world is, very gradually, changed for the better. Why does God work so slowly to bring in his kingdom of peace, justice and love when there is so much suffering in the world? Perhaps because, God has only us and our flawed humanity to work through, and we are slow to change.

I am really looking forward to Christmas. What would our Christmas celebrations be without family and friends, Christmas dinner, Christmas trees, and too much mulled wine and mince pies? It is right to celebrate the world’s hope in Christ with feasting and great joy - but as we do so, let’s spare a thought and our prayers for all those living in the land of Jesus’s birth, for whom there will be no joy as we celebrate in the peace and safety of our own homes.

May the peace and joy of God's coming Kingdom be with all God’s people this Christmas.

And may God bless us all.

Revd. John Kronenberg

Originally published in parish magazine.


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