Advent is the time for Hope. Advent 2016 brings to a close a year in which the new word is – as the Oxford English Dictionary has declared – ‘post-truth’. What hope can there be, we might ask, for a post-truth world? We have witnessed two election campaigns where truth and fact were in short supply. Since ‘Brexit’ we have learned not to trust the polls. The events of previous months have revealed an enormous disconnect between what is in peoples’ hearts and minds, and the political systems that we take for granted in Western democracy. So many, it would appear, simply no longer believe the established democratic processes. So, what lies beneath that disaffection?
The answer is many things. Certainly there is a sense of unfairness, as some experience real poverty and hardship and yet see others growing richer and more comfortable in the widening inequalities of society. There is also a movement from the idea of unity across regions and nations – why should we think about the needs of strangers and aliens, when we’re up against it ourselves? A sense of being overwhelmed by the immense global movements – 60 million – fleeing war, violence, famine, insecurity; seeking a new home.
Furthermore, people no longer trust experts, professional politicians, those with experience and learning – as they are deemed to belong to a political system which is seen not only as undemocratic, but as elitist and corrupt. The fears and disaffections are not difficult to understand. We are living in a world of change, of shaken stabilities – a post-truth world. We are living in a world which is also increasingly dominated by fear. It undermines trust between people and between nations.
It is fuelled by those who want to create fear – those who deliberately use terrorism to destabilise. Or those who are opportunist, ready to take advantage of weakness. We are caught up in global forces, including the serious threat of global warming and climate change which makes us all more concerned than we tend to admit. Massive global forces at play which stir deep fear and destroy trust. The most tempting thing to do, as we feel the fear, is to fall into the same dynamic ourselves. To start to think tribally, to divide the world into us and them. To lose compassion for the other – whoever she or he might be. To fail to see the humanity and dignity of all. To distrust rather than trust – to let fear takes over everything.
That is when our Christian faith needs to kick in. Because if faith in Jesus Christ means anything, it must give us the resources to dig deeper than the fear, to find a foundation that is secure and enduring. If our Chris)an faith gives us anything, it is the strong assurance that the fears and terrors of this present age are not the final word. St Paul wrote to the Colossians about Christ: ‘For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.’ Colossians 1:19-20
If we were to use this season of Advent as it is intended instead of as a time for early Christmas celebrations. If we were to use this Advent as a deep, rich )me in which we prepare our hearts and minds to receive the Christ-child at his nativity – his rebirth at the heart of creation – we may be able to discover more profoundly who Christ really is. St Paul, as he contemplated Jesus Christ, saw in him all the fullness of God. As such Christ is the realisation of true humanity.
This Advent – as we contemplate the post-liberal, post-truth world in which we now live – let us hold onto that central Advent hope that the truth and reality of the fullness of God is realised in Jesus Christ. We get closer to that truth and reality whenever we gather at the Eucharist, whenever we are the Church worshipping and receiving the real presence of Christ in word and sacrament. This is the reality that is God’s love which came to earth on that first Christmas, in which all things, all time is redeemed and finds fulfilment. And it is God’s gift to us, not only at Christmas, but now in this moment and always.
May I wish all readers, parishioners, friends and families a very happy and holy Christmas and every blessing for 2017!
With every blessing.
Rev’d John Tanner.
Phone: 01-289 3154 / 086 302 1376