Sunday, 7 December 2014

Christmas, Advent and Hope

There is something so beautiful about seasons. About rhythms. In a new country and culture these look a little different - I don't hear Christmas songs every time I turn on the radio and I don't watch local TV so I don't see the ads. Instead we have special Christmas cookies and things like Saint Mikuláš

But some things don't change. There are still Christmas trees and decorations. I love pulling out my decorations each year because they remind me of different places and people. The star on my tree and one of my nativity sets come from Cardiff. Another nativity group is from Northern Ireland, a beautiful handmade gift from one of my favourite people.

And regardless of the decorations, songs and traditions there is still this period of advent. This season of waiting and re-entering the story. The greatest story. 

For the last number of years I've used the same book in this season. It has daily readings from 1st December right up to Epiphany on 6th January. The book now feels like an old friend with different parts highlights in different years.

I bought this nativity set during my very first trip to the Czech Republic and now it is on my fridge in this country.

This week the readings were mostly about Zechariah. And the words that I can't get out of my head this week? The words Gabriel spoke to Zechariah as he brought the news of a baby to be born to an old, barren couple.

"Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard"

Can you imagine being an old man and hearing those words? Zechariah and Elizabeth had probably prayed those prayers many times - over and over, whispering, crying, longing. They had maybe even stopped saying them over the many years because no answer seemed to come.

Your prayer has been heard. 

As the first candle of advent is lit we remember it signifies hope. We remember the hope of the people of Israel, waiting on their long prophesied Messiah. 

And as I re-enter this story again I am grateful for the hope we have in the baby born at Christmas, and the hope that comes from knowing God hears my prayers.

"The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned." Isaiah 9:2

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