Advent Reflection 21
Tuesday 7th December 2021 @ 4:45 pm
Last week I was honoured to give the reflection at the annual Trinity College Advent Carol Service.
or if you have time and would like to listen to the whole service with wonderful readers and magnificent choir, you can watch it all here.
For those who like to read you can read it here … noting (perhaps amusingly to some, but not to me at the time[!] that the first page of the reflection was missing when I got up to speak! Probably made it quicker :–)
We are in church.
So let me confess.
I have ‘already’ had my Christmas playlist played through in the car,
More than that … if you’re ready for it … I have already watched a Christmas movie this year. If you want real confessional blood – it was November at the time.
I love it – I love the glitter and lights
the candles and songs
the hope of the ages,
the gathering of families,
renewing of connections,
the chill in the air batted back by the heat and heart of a real fire …
I love it.
I love the giving, the giftedness of it all, and it so happens that this Christmas I will celebrate one year since the gift of getting married last Christmas Giftedness indeed … indeed some have called it miraculous ?
Maybe most of all I love the space for reflection.
The invitation that exists to stop,
take a breath, gaze around and if you can muster it,
inviting your heart to be soothed by the message of the angels
that Christ has come –
we are not alone.
That is the deep giftedness of this time of the year.
What we wait for and anticipate through this season of Advent
The giftedness of God.
The creator, assuring the created,
they are not,
and will not,
This is giftedness – freely given –unexpected …
… Abraham’s father Terah jumped into the continuing story of God in Genesis 11, … left his home of Ur and goes … his son Abraham then becomes the mainstay of the unfolding story of God in history. No textual reason given, just travel. Followed by unexpected divine actions and and encounter …
And here in the gospels of Matthew and Luke we have the continuing unfolding of the story of God … although it won’t be humans who are somehow inspired and now …
this time .. it is Godself – God’s very self who enters the creation.
Divine Life puts on human skin.
How’s that for giftedness – how’s that for kindness?
As I look around me this year, I genuinely think that we as societies in the West are beginning to suffer from post–covid PTSD. The Insecurity, unknowns, illness, separation, the death and loss of so much,
the constant moving of goal posts,
with more and more being demanded from us …
I am talking with many people experiencing deep anxieties and stress – grief, trauma, seclusion. The changes that have been thrust upon us do have real consequences in our social and emotional lives, and I don’t need to tell you that because you, like me, are living and breathing this. You probably know people who cannot sleep, who feel their very existence has been put out, you may be one of those people. One of the many.
Can I gently suggest that no matter who you are,
what you believe,
or what you have come through
this Christmas can be a time for kindness.
A time for you give, kindness. The Greek word used for kindness in the NT letter to the Galatians, where the writer outlines the gifts of the Spirit … those things which exude when the spirit of God is somehow present living through us into creation, ‘Chr?stot?s’, is the word, and can also be translated as ‘goodness’, or get this ‘gentleness’ ….
Aristotle defined kindness as “helpfulness towards someone in need, not in return for anything, nor for the advantage of the helper himself, but for that of the person helped”
Friends kindness is a willingness to give to others above and beyond what we own them, and what they can repay – it is covered with gentleness, promotes goodness. It can change lives.
That sisters and brothers is what the world needs now,
is what we see in the kindness of God at this time of the year.
This incarnation that we expect, await,
this act of God is not an invasion,
it’s an invitation,
it’s not a morally superior mighty overcoming,
it’s a lovingly gentle losing of grace toward creation
it’s kindness – it is goodness – it is love.
We know from the research that kindness creates good–feelings, we know that kind people are happier people, we know that kindness multiplies itself, 5 times over research says.
Kindness is what will help this world transform in the coming years – kindness will move us gently through post covid PTSD, For in real kindness, we live the example of Divine giving, by giving of ourselves. As Divine life transmits, transfers and transforms love between and through us.
I waked into a greasy spoon café the other day and when I had my bacon + sausage roll in my hand I asked for some fizzy water, and the guy behind the counter didn’t have any, he then says, “oi, wait a minute, and he takes an unopened fizzy water out of his bag and gives it to me – saying well I wasn’t charged for it so I’ll not charge you either” Gentle unsought surprising kindness … of course there are stories that go deeper …
A prisoner in the Maze Longkesh some time ago (when it was operational) was offered restorative justice as part of his sentence rather than simple retributive justice. You know this – restorative justice is a place where a victim could meets with perpetrator, and express feelings, thoughts, questions.
So, a meeting took place. The prisoner had burgled an older woman’s house and stolen from her. The victim was understandably upset, shaken, traumatized. She had wondered why her? Had it been planned?
Had she been watched?
Was her treasured home vandalized as part of a plan?
Through the restorative justice process, the victim was able to meet the perpetrator and learn this had been a complete crime of opportunity. In fact the perpetrator could not actually fully remember where and when the burglary had taken place because of drug use … there was no pre–meditated plan for harm,
she had not been watched,
plotted against or targeted.
This of course, brought some relief in a horrifying situation.
However in the course of the conversation the victim learned that the perpetrator loved cars, and so after this process was complete, the victim arranged for a car magazine to be delivered to the perpetrator every month in prison, until his release.
How’s that for kindness – Kindness in the face of pain.
Kindness bringing healing.
Kindness as an act of defiance against the darkness.
That woman met brutality, with kindness.
And her example has changed me … it might challenge you also?
I told you – some time ago some of you may be thinking – that I got married last year, I was fortunate enough to go with a package deal, that made me a step–father to three amazing young women at the same time.
I know, me and a household of four woman, I know, what did I do to deserve such a gift?
It’s been wonderful, and I am learning a lot, not least of all how children can be our teachers.
When the girls were last in Dublin our second daughter did not want to leave before she had carried out a task. She had noticed a particular homeless lady at the river and had seen her twice, over two days. She had not on those occasions been able to do anything for her, while her nine year old heart ached for this woman begging on the street.
She did not want to leave Dublin without going to find her. We struck a deal so that we could get home – that I would go find her in the place described – a task I did, try but alas the woman as described was no longer in that place.
The kindness of a nine year old digs deep though.
While I could not locate the specific homeless woman I was invited to,
I was walking past too many others to feel comfortable.
So I stopped and spoke with one woman, and bought her lunch. And I told our daughter later that I had not managed to find the one that had touched her heart, but I did carry out some kindness because she inspired and invited me to, and at least one woman on the street had someone talk to her that day.
The inspiration and invitation of a child … is also the inspiration and invitation of the Christ–child this Advent.
The Christ child is ultimate kindness … the kindness of God.
The complete giftedness of Divine Life into our lives.
Heavenly life, come down,
love all lovely, love divine, love be yours and love be mine.
While contemplating these words I was only to aware that because of circumstance, we cannot after this service gather to feast on Trinity mince pies. We have no reception on this occasion.
So – in the absence of our feast, let me practice what I have preached and tell anyone in the chapel that there are chocolate sweets in the entrance hall for you on the way out. Times as they are, they will be put on the table by some of our stewards who will have fully sanitized hands!
Please help yourself.
If you’re watching at home …
… if you look outside your front door there is a package …
No no no – I jest, my abilities only go so far … but I do invite you,
as our Advent season rolls on,
As we conclude this service, later, go give a cuppa and chocolate to the people around you,
give a gift,
give an encouragement,
give something of yourself,
Divine kindness bids us partake, and share it around.
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