It’s hard to believe we find ourselves on the brink of a new church year once again, especially given how mild the weather has been. I have a friend in Halifax whose forsythia has been confused into blooming this week!
And yet, here we are … back on the precipice of Advent. Advent, you’ll recall, is the season in which we await the birth of the Christ child. We don’t just wait, though; we also prepare. We prepare our homes and our sanctuary by decorating with living greens and candles to remind ourselves of the light, beauty, and life even in the coldest months. We prepare our spirits by remembering God’s call through prophets and stories. And we rehearse the story of the Holy Family: three refugees, frightened, vulnerable and under very real threat, who sought safe lodging far from home.
Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? In fact, the three Abrahamic faiths are full of stories of like this. I don’t claim to be well-read in the Quran, but I know for a fact that Jewish and Christian scriptures contain a myriad of commandments, parables and exhortations that we are to welcome the stranger, because “remember, you were once aliens in the land of Egypt.”
Given the explosions of violence in the Middle East, Africa and Europe in recent weeks and months, it’s no surprise that many Americans feel hesitant to live that faith fully. There’s no doubt that things are very frightening in our world right now, at least in many quarters. That, in fact, is the intent of terrorists: to create a debilitating and dehumanizing fear. As human beings, we’re susceptible to that, aren’t we?
This season of Advent, we’ll hear stories of refugees and angelic messengers, of shepherds and kings, light and shadows. We’ll hear the old, old story of a silent night long ago, and remember that into a world very much like ours, a child was born whose name is Love, whose gift is Light, and who reminds us to be not afraid.
May we live lives of fearless love, welcoming the stranger, offering shelter to those who need it, and welcoming the Christ child in faith and courage.