An Advent journey: from fear to hope

This article by Fr. Stewart Murray has been reprinted from Crosstalk, the newspaper of the Anglican Diocese of Ottawa.
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Advent has come again so quickly, and once again I ask myself, where has the year gone? A year filled with much joy and beauty, but also one touched with sorrow and tragedy for so many. The ongoing conflicts in the world that have come into the very centre of Ottawa and the frightening ongoing outbreak of ebola in West Africa strike fear in the hearts of many. It is all too easy to allow these and other kinds of worries, fears and anxieties to overwhelm us. One concern I share with many other folks is a concern about family members; it seems that no matter how old the children are I worry about them, the focus of the worry just changes! Like many others I also have concerns about health and finances – will there be enough money to retire?

If not careful we can begin to look at ourselves and our world through the lens of our worries and fears and allow those things to define us and to colour the way we view the people and the world around us. To look at the world through such a lens can lead us to see the world as a fearful, dangerous place. This can lead us to slowly withdraw from the world and isolate ourselves from others. To see only the ugliness and the evil in the world can lead us to see only what is lacking in the world, in others and in ourselves. It can make our world to be a place only of fear, ugliness and tragedy and we can feel powerless and overwhelmed.

Advent is a powerful reminder that fear, ugliness and evil is not the only lens through which to see our world. Advent reminds us that the living God, the source of all that is good and beautiful in creation, has not abandoned us to our fallen and broken world. In our journey through Advent we are reminded, through the reading of Scripture and through sharing in the liturgy, of God’s constant presence in history and of His desire to restore and heal humanity’s relationship to Him and to one another. We are reminded of God’s faithfulness and of His promise to come among us and redeem His creation. We are challenged to hear and respond to His call after the examples of John the Baptist and of Our Lady and to share in the great work of redemption. Our vision of the future is renewed as we are reminded of the promise of Christ’s Second Coming when the last vestiges of darkness and death will be swept away. We are invited to remember Jesus’ words “ be not afraid” and to see the world through the lens not of fear, but of love and hope grounded in the Gospel. We are reminded that the source of our identity is as a disciple of Jesus called with our brothers and sisters to live out the Gospel message of love, peace and forgiveness.

This Advent let us reflect on these words from the Gospel of John: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you: not as the world gives, give I to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14: 27) Let us resolve to look at ourselves, at those we love, those with whom we work and at the world with the eyes of Christ and to see God at work in the everyday and in the midst of the great tragedies. Let us resolve to see not just the refugees fleeing conflict, but the countless people seeking to bring them the necessities of life; to see not the just the violence of a lone gunman, but the many people working to help provide care to those struggling with mental illness and addiction; to see not just the person begging on the corner, but the generosity of so many in providing shelter and food to those in need in our community. Let us resolve to look for signs of God’s presence in the world. To rejoice in the beauty and goodness that surround us everyday.