‘The word became flesh and moved into the neighbourhood.’ John 14, the Message.
Many of us may already be familiar with Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase from the book of John, capturing the heart of the gospel’s message of ‘God with us.’ Following the news of his recent death many of us may have been reminded of Pastor Peterson’s gift of communicating profound truths with great simplicity and accessibility. May his great legacy continue to inspire us.
At Christmas, the birth of Christ reminds us that this incarnation moment; this act of God ‘moving into the neighbourhood’ brings God alongside us, both in the flesh and by His Spirit. Jesus’ birth indicates that God is not from the pain and difficulties of our far from perfect world. Instead, He is present and in our midst through his far-from-perfect birth: a king, lying in a lowly manger. From this point on, even the difficult places are revealed as sacred.
If God is with us in the humility of the stable, the unseen actions we take in the unglamorous places of our everyday lives and settings can be seen as significant and powerful. Though Him, we have the opportunity to be bringers of light and hope.
I’m sure many of us can identify people in their community who are ‘bringers of light.’ People who have never read a book on neighbouring, or been to a workshop – they just do it, powered by kindness and a faith despite daily challenges.
Not all who are walking in darkness recognise the light. It was certainly the case in Jesus’ life from the moment of his arrival. Yet we’re called to a hope that continues to point towards it, and looks for it. We need an understanding of hope that is based on God with us in the reality of darkness.
Darkness comes in many forms. We meet to pray for these serving hands, that they might recognise God’s presence. We pray the ability to continue to share those gifts with others. When we pray in hope like this, we choose to look for the strands of goodness. In the midst of daily darkness, to not be overcome by it.
Jürgen Moltmann offers a reason for hope: ‘The ultimate reason for our hope is not to be found at all in what we want, wish for and wait for. The ultimate reason is that we are wanted and wished for and waited for.’
At advent, we want, we wish, and we wait. Yet, if we can grasp that ultimately, we are the ones that God wants, then we can draw from a hope we don’t need to generate ourselves. Instead, we tap into the true source of hope.
These are testing times; growing queues at the foodbanks, a widespread increase in poverty – particularly for people who are disabled. In the face of this, we continue to seek the strands of good and to nurture and affirm – to create communities where everybody can take part. To do this we choose to celebrate those in our neighbourhood who remind us how to be bearers of hope through their unseen actions. This advent, through our hope of God, we can live the truth that each one in our communities is wanted, and wished for, and waited for.