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Christmas Illuminations: Waiting in Hope

But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
though you are small among the clans Judah,
out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel,
whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.

MICAH 5:2

Last week, my husband, son, and I felt so happy to be able to meet with our best friends after weeks of just being able to chat over Zoom dinners. Only allowed to meet outdoors, off we trotted to my local zoo’s light festival, complete with our Christmas hats and matching Rudolf masks. As I entered the zoo illuminated with the vibrant colours of the rainbow, I was reminded of how God sealed his promise with a rainbow in Genesis 9. In this sign of hope, God didn’t say we won’t experience storms, but he did promise that he’d be with us in them.

During Advent, as Christians we immerse ourselves in a season of expectation, a time of waiting and preparation as we look back at the first coming of Jesus as a baby and look forward to his second coming. We don’t know when Christ will return but we do know waiting allows us the opportunity to ready ourselves.

The message of Micah, like that of the prophets before him, isn’t pleasant or popular. God knows his people’s sins of social injustice, exploitation, and oppression. Micah declares that judgement will be swift and severe, and the nation will need to experience destruction and captivity. But in the midst of this, Micah offers a word of hope.

A divine deliverer is coming and, when he does, justice will prevail. Righteousness will be truly understood as a way of life where the most vulnerable and oppressed have God’s special attention. This Messiah will emerge from the small and obscure Bethlehem to be ‘ruler over Israel’.

It can be uncomfortable waiting with hope. Yet as we approach Christmas in the midst of a global pandemic, we have a unique opportunity in this uncertain time to create a chance to pause, acknowledge the difficulties and anxieties of this year, and seek God’s direction.

Many of us know the carol,

O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie…
Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting light.
The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.

What might those hopes and fears mean to you this year? What are the hopes and fears for the people you meet every day, colleagues at work, friends at school or university… the most vulnerable in your communities? In what ways can you illuminate Christ’s light and help them realise that their hopes and fears are met in Jesus?

Lyn Weston 
Director of Church of England Relations, LICC

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