As I have listened to story after story from Syrian refugees of heart breaking cruelty, violence and indiscriminate killing, of towns and villages destroyed, and of families torn apart, I find myself sickened by what the world is today.
It is strange that Simeon and Anna (Luke 2: 25-38) are never part of the Christmas story played out every year in church pageants across the world. Yet, it is their excitement when they saw God’s promised Saviour, which brings into focus the meaning of Advent.
What is it about a small baby that absolutely thrilled them? They had waited years in the midst of the brutality of the Roman occupation, when hundreds had been crucified by the roadside for all to see, as various Jewish rebellions had tried to win freedom and failed. They had witnessed the grueling poverty in which seventy percent of the Israelites lived. They had seen the callousness of the wealthy as they abused and cheated the poor of what little they had left. It had seemed that God had been absent in all those years of waiting. Then in the middle of an ordinary day God appears with a promise. Simeon and Anna had believed that this is not the way God had intended the world to be and that He would one day set it right. The little baby was God’s promise.
Advent is a reminder of this waiting and anticipation that Christ will return, His Kingdom will be established here on earth, and there would be an end to brutality, injustice and poverty. The promise is that “every valley be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low”, every tear will be wiped away, swords will be turned into plowshares, children will not die prematurely, and that the elderly will not be displaced but live in their own homes.
There are days I despair just thinking how foolish it is to believe in something so radical when the reality around me is so hard and cold. Yet, it is this hope that is at the core of the Gospel that we share.