Uppermost in my mind are the effects of the political changes of the second half of the year. After the referendum on the European Union in June, we saw a recorded increase in hate crime across the board, but particularly racially aggravated incidents. The xenophobic language of the leave campaign seems to have contributed to this increase.
Similarly, following the election of Donald Trump as President-elect of the United States of America, there was a renewed sense of threat against our churches, against black people and other people of colour, and against the LGBT+ communities. The language of the campaing appeared to give this permission.
That Advent comes in the end of the calendar year, amidst the shortest and darkest days, reminds us that Christ is a presence with us in all our own times of cold and fear, and encourages us to look to the future. The Nativity stories we read in the Gospels tell of a family living in a politically hostile landscape (Roman Palestine) who were forced into seeking asylum in Egypt because of the whim of a corrupt ruler. The birth of Christ gives us hope because it overturns corruption and the status quo through the simple subversive image of God as a child fleeing for his life. That is the Unexpected Peace we are commemorating with our service this Sunday.
The Christchild is alive in every young person desperate to leave Alleppo. Mary's loving care holds fast in every mother, stepmother and mother-figure who protects the vulnerable. Joseph's steadfastness is present in every father or protector who places themselves between the court of public opinion and the righteousness of God to keep the law of love.
As Lorraine reminded us last week, the peace of Christ is not a reality in our world yet. Advent reminds us to pray continually that the Prince of Peace will come once again amongst us, that God's Rule of Love of will create the world anew, and that we will be agents of unfamiliar peace, unclear hope, unrevealed joy and unknown love.
Blessings of the season,