Carolyn Merry 22 Dec 2022
The predominant theme that emerged for me over this advent is one of God creating a larger, more loving story. That makes so much sense to me, as I have always experienced God as the creative force of love in the world and in my own life. So, the larger more loving story of the reconciling presence of love inherent in the birth of a vulnerable child and the life Jesus went on to live, embodies the reconciling presence of love that can speak into any story that we may have experienced, or be experiencing, or be afraid of experiencing.
In times of conflict and division, we experience many emotions, and these will often surface in the telling of our stories. They can include fear, confusion, anxiety, doubt, anger, disappointment, helplessness, frustration, sadness, despair, being overwhelmed, lonely or impatient. Into these stories and emotions, God’s larger, more loving story allows us to better understand our own stories, and those of others….it cuts across the pain, divisions and suspicions that may have occurred and whilst acknowledging them as valid and meaningful (God is with us, sharing our emotions), helps us to look up, outward and beyond our individual stories to something much bigger and better. We are beloved children of God and so is everyone and everything else – and God is with us all.
That is not just good news, but brilliant news. It also challenging news – if we truly believe in the transformative presence of God in our lives – then we cannot only tend our own individual stories. We are connected to everyone and to all creation, and so their stories are our stories, and we must tend to them as well.
How do we move from our individual stories to that larger, more loving one that encompasses our interconnectedness and need for reconciliation on so many levels? Advent readings and reflections have challenged me afresh:
Be alert to signs of hope. It is easy to be cynical in the current times, to be overwhelmed by the violence and fear that abounds. Seeking and seeing the many signs of hope in our world, will not only sustain us, but will encourage us that in our small ways we all have the ability to make things better.
We need to be courageous. Our stories are familiar, comfortable (even the uncomfortable, painful ones), they help define us. Looking to the stories of others, may challenge and change our own stories and that might make us uncomfortable at best. Fearful, angry, and threatened at worst. We can draw courage from people of faith who have been transformed by the presence of God –those from history, but also those we know in our current times and lives. Although, they may have struggled in hearing and understanding different stories, ultimately the larger, more loving story they emerged with was worth the risk.
To even entertain that there is a larger, more loving story for ourselves, for those we are in conflict with, for our broken world, I increasingly believe we need to be rooted in the creative force of love that is God. It may sound backwards, given that the larger, more loving story helps us root ourselves ever deeper in God’s love for us and all, but I believe we need to choose – to choose to act out of love in situations of conflict (inner, interpersonal or social), rather than react out of fear. When we react out of fear, we generally either flee from conflict or escalate it. When we act out of love – for ourselves and for others (even when we are afraid), we hold space and possibility for transformation. Transformation in our identity, transformation in our relationships and transformation to deeper community (locally and globally).
Ultimately, this larger, more loving story of God – of God with us – can bring peace and reconciliation wherever we are in our stories - in our fears, in the midst of violence, in the turbulence of our inner and outer contexts. In those circumstances, Jesus brings us a profound sense of peace and a deep reconciliation within ourselves, with God and with one another.
In today’s world we need to experience that loving presence more than ever – in the context of economic crisis, environmental emergency, war, nuclear threat, the pandemic, widespread changes to our daily and communal life, including in our Churches. The promise of God with Us that every Christmas we are reminded of, becomes not only more important but foundational to our health and wellbeing.
As we await the Christ-child this Christmas, we already know the presence of Jesus – God with us. And in God’s loving presence - may despair turn to hope, may violence turn to healing, may fear turn to love. May we let the ‘Prince of Peace’ meet us where we are and bring us his peace that passes all understanding…and enable us to live a larger, more loving story towards a radical, transformed, God-coloured world. In other words, a world rooted in transformational love.
“Seeking and seeing the many signs of hope in our world, will not only sustain us, but will encourage us that in our small ways we all have the ability to make things better. ” — Carolyn Merry