I remember over the years hearing older folk, being confronted with new challenges and disturbing news, saying, “Would you bring a child into this world?”
At this time of year we move into Advent on the journey to Christmas, and the readings of the lectionary for our worship and devotion may evoke the same response. The gospel readings are about endings—violent, earth-shaking endings at that. Then they move to John the Baptist’s crisis producing fire and brimstone preaching.
I hope you also get to hear the other readings too, as they are full of joy and wonder—particularly the Old Testament readings. Most of these come from the time after the great trial of exile, and they speak of hope and restoration.
So we are offered juxtaposition, and that is really the dynamic of Christmas and the dynamic of a realistic faith. It’s like the number of times in the scriptures the phrase, “but God” occurs. It’s usually around times when things in the salvation story look really bad and hopeless—Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Joseph. But God intervened to save and to restore.
Then there are the times things looked really good—human arrogance and pride saying to itself, this is all my doing. But God states God’s mind on the issue (I’m thinking of King David here).
In the shadow of the events of Paris, Kabul, Beirut and Sinai, and in the great underlying philosophical challenges that are before the West—and in the challenge of climate change—it might be easier and tempting for us to retreat. Somehow Australia’s geographical location in relation to the rest of the world tempts us that way, yet the whole of the story of salvation draws us in a different direction. It draws us into a radical hope. It paints the world as it is, without any naivety, in realpolitik terms; yet it also paints a picture of the world as it will be, because there is a player in the midst of it who is its creator.
Christmas is the revelation of the way of the creator in the midst of the reality of the world as it is. Christmas is Emmanuel “God is with us”. Christmas, teasingly—for whose heart stays cold at the sight of a baby?—invites us to look further into the ways of God; the hope and justice that lie at the heart of all things. Put yourself somewhere you can touch that hope. There are places that are open for that this Christmas.
Rev David Baker
Moderator, Queensland Synod