Last Saturday I watched, on TV, the Adelaide Christmas Pageant with my 6 year old daughter. It was held at the Adelaide Oval for the first time due to COVID-19 restrictions. Watching it I couldn’t help but think about how different it was and therefore reflect on how COVID has impacted our lives (obviously oblivious to the coming week in Adelaide with the Parafield cluster being announced and increasing restrictions implemented again).
On that Saturday evening, there was a sense of anticipation and finally some excitement about 2020 – Christmas is coming! A sense of “let’s try to leave this year behind us or at least try to make the most of what we can celebrate.” Here in South Australia we had become accustomed to a new COVID normal that really looked a lot like normal for the most part of living and working and playing, except for limited interstate and overseas holidays, 1.5m distancing (and reminder stickers everywhere) and hand sanitiser at the entrance of most shops.
As I watched the pageant it struck me that in a year of panic, fear and uncertainty and as we look to an uncertain and unknown new year, there was a sense of hope. Hope that life will be okay, there will be a vaccine, that we can live in this new normal. One of the pageant floats was of the nativity, a depiction of the Biblical Christmas story, and as I watched this float and heard the presenters talking about it, I reflected on how Jesus is our certain hope in a way that the Christmas pageant doesn’t come close to. The hope we have in this world that 2021 will be okay is really quite unknown, almost wishful thinking.
How much our world and our South Australian community needs to know about hope in Jesus Christ. It’s lovely and fun to watch the pageant and celebrate all the traditions and elements of Christmas but in the end it’s just fluff and stuff. The tinsel, the gifts, the clowns, the reindeer, the big and the small of it all, it may bring some happiness, it may bring a sense of community, it may be a distraction but it doesn’t address the deep heart need of fear and anxiety and panic that we seem to be living with, for many on a daily basis. And as Saturday rolled into Sunday night and the news filled with our latest SA COVID cluster, the reality of this became all too apparent.
In the Intergen Team’s latest resource for use during Advent, the Christmas Family Faith Trail, one of the stations has a focus on hope. We ask: What things make you feel afraid? What brings you comfort and hope?
I invite you to pause and take a moment to reflect on these questions.
Romans 15:13 says:
13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (NRSV)
And in another translation, Romans 15:13 reads:
13 I pray that God, who gives hope, will bless you with complete happiness and peace because of your faith. And may the power of the Holy Spirit fill you with hope. (CEV)
I invite you to pause and reflect on this verse.
Our hope comes from God and with hope comes peace and joy. If you reflect on your life and the times when you felt hopeful, did you also feel a sense of joy intertwined with hope? Hope is looking forward, anticipating good, building a sense of joy within us. When we anticipate good, peace fills us. When we focus on fear and panic, we are usually anticipating the not-so-good or even the very bad.
I encourage you to focus on the hope we have in Christ. This isn’t an attitude of ‘ignore present circumstances’ and ‘smile at all costs’ but have hope in spite of our present circumstances. We can say, “I will look to Jesus and have hope for today and next year and my future.”
In the Christmas Family Faith Trail we also invite people to reflect on the following with their family, household or small group:
Tell about a time you received Good News. How did you feel? Good news brings hope. What are your hopes this Christmas?
As we head into Advent, a season of waiting and preparing, may God’s joy and peace fill you so that you may have hope. And may we share the good news of Christmas, the good news that brings us hope – that God loves us so much that he gave his Son, Jesus Christ, so that whoever believes in him shall have life. A life of peace and joy because our hope is not in fluff and stuff but in our loving, faithful God who is with us in all circumstances.
May you have and share God’s hope this season.