Dear Church Leaders,
The peace of Christ to you! Advent is in full swing—and Christmas is around the corner. What feelings does this season stir in you and your congregation—excitement, sorrow, joy, stress?
Rhythms change a bit this time of year, freeing many of us up to gather with loved ones. Personally, I am really hoping for both good connection and down time. I also recognize that for many, broken relationships highlight that all is not right. This season actually hurts.
Refugees also know the pain of separation from community rhythms—when the comfort of being with loved ones at home is replaced by only memories and tears. “Will my life ever feel normal again?” so many wonder as they work to adjust to a new land.
Until God’s promise of the new heavens and earth is made complete, and all the complexities of our broken relationships and systems are healed, our world waits in this tension. No matter how much technological and social progress we make, there lingers a shared sense that not all has not been made fully right yet.
We wait in tension—we qavah—for wholeness.
Living on the margins of society, Mary knew this tension well. Picture her in your mind—the humble, Jewish adolescent, displaced and pregnant, her family heavily taxed by Caesar Augustus, the self-declared son of god. Between the Old and New Testaments, Yahweh had been silent for 400 years. In Mary’s day, all did not feel right.
Her song proclaims a bold hope amidst this tension of waiting: At last! He has come to save us from our brokenness—and to defeat the powers that oppress us. Her voice cries out: Finally! Hope for the humble, the poor and the forgotten of His people. At last, the long-awaited sign! Yahweh’s ancient promise to Israel of salvation and justice is coming true.
Like Mary and our ancestors of faith,we may not know exactly how God will complete this work—and actually, we may not have evidence that circumstances will get better before they get worse. At times, we look around at our churches and communities, stuck in complexity and crisis we cannot fix. But like the prophets declared, our hope is rooted—not in the state of the world or our odds at progress—but in the very person of Jesus Christ. His faithfulness in the past gives us hope for the future He has promised. That one day at last, He will finally rescue us—and the whole creation—from decay and death.
As we wait for King Jesus to come again, we can lean deeply into hope that is rooted—not in summoned optimism or holiday cheer—but in the very character of God who makes good on His promises.
This hope gifted to Mary and to our forefathers is the same hope given today to displaced refugees—and to you and me. Praise the Lord—we need it now as much as ever.
During Advent, I invite you to reflect: who do you know that needs to be invited afresh into this bold, enduring hope?
May the Lord infuse your heart with it this day,
J. Mark Bowers
for all of us at World Relief
Feeling inspired to get involved? See what you can donate to create safe, welcoming homes for refugees – and above all, hope.
J. Mark Bowers is Sr. Training Advisor at World Relief, building our capacity to help churches become places of welcome wherever they are.