First Week of Advent: HOPE

02 Dec

Advent is from the latin word for “coming.” It's a season when the Church prepares for the coming of Christ in our hearts and lives. On the four Fridays during Advent, we've asked a CRM staff person to share a reflection on what Christ’s coming could mean for their ministry context, inviting us to engage personally with the weekly themes of Advent: Hope, Peace, Joy and Love.

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LUKE 4:17-20 | (…) and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
    and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
    to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

MEDITATION
“There is no space. Look inside, madame.”

The man pointed to the plastic housing unit he and several others stay in. I learned that he has been at this refugee camp in Greece for some months now, with no idea when his asylum papers will be processed.

Another man pulled back a makeshift curtain in front of the unit made from a dark blue UN-issued blanket, motioning for another volunteer, Elena*, and me to check it out. I already knew what I was going to see: a mess of sleeping pads, backpacks, empty plastic water bottles, and more of those UN blankets. The unit was quite full, but still, I explained that we needed to find space for one young man.

“Please, it’s just one person. He needs a place to stay.”

I felt guilty for asking, but the reality was that there were so few housing options left around the camp. The men were evidently frustrated, as there was barely room for all of them to lie down to sleep in less than 200 square feet of space.

The first man went on to tell me that the camp is beyond capacity and that something must be done. His voice was raspy and worn.

His tone then took a turn. Fine, he said. Just send them all here, and I’ll sleep outside. He walked away and didn’t say another word.

Elena and I apologized to the group, trying to express that we knew this was hard for everyone. Despite securing a place for one more person, it still seemed like we made the whole situation worse.

“I don’t feel like I did a good thing,” I said as we headed back to the camp’s information center.

Elena admitted that she was feeling the same way. She had been wondering if this—staying at an overcrowded refugee camp that more closely resembles a prison—is really that much better than what they left behind. Was it worth leaving everything behind and risking their lives to make the perilous journey on foot, by road, through dark forests, across the sea in a tiny boat?

“I think it is,” she said, “because now they’ll have the opportunity to hear the gospel.”

Days earlier, Elena and I walked around a nearby town and ended up at an old castle with an incredible panoramic view. I looked out at the sea, thinking of those who had crossed, those who hadn’t made it, and those who had yet to attempt it, and I sensed the Lord inviting me to pray blessing over the land—specifically speaking hope over it.

Lord, may this land be filled with the hope of your Son.

What Elena said about the gospel stuck with me during the rest of my time volunteering at the camp. There are a number of people groups represented there, from sub-Saharan and north Africa, to the Middle East and southern Asia. Most of them come from predominantly Muslim contexts and places that are difficult to access due to war, conflict, and persecution. These people are now gathered in a place where they can freely learn about Jesus. They can experience the hope of the One who redeems the suffering of this world, including the loss of loved ones, destruction of homes, and unimaginable trauma.

Now, back in California, I think of what the Lord invited me to pray when Elena and I walked up to the old castle: Lord, may this land be filled with the hope of your Son.

My husband and I currently live in an area where people from different cultures and socioeconomic statuses intersect, and in every corner and across every demographic, there is a desperate need for hope. I see it in the young man who stands by the freeway onramp with a cardboard sign asking for help, and in the mother who quietly makes decisions at the grocery store to figure out how to provide for her family that week. I see it in the man who commutes over an hour each way to an unfulfilling job he feels stuck in, and the person sitting next to me at church who seeks acceptance.

They are all in need of the hope of the One who proclaims good news to those living on the margins of society and to those who are poor in spirit. The hope of the One who proclaims freedom for the oppressed and recovery of sight for the blind. The hope that redeems the suffering in this world, including systemic injustice, broken relationships, and deep woundings.

Like Elena said, whether in a refugee camp or in our own homes and neighborhoods, there is hope for everyone because of Jesus—and we have the opportunity to share it. This Christmas season, let us go and be “good news people” to those in need of hope.

* Name changed for privacy
 

REFLECT

  1. What would the coming of Christ look like in your neighborhood, community, nation, etc.? How would the hope of Jesus affect these places and the people?
  2. Spend some quiet time in prayer over your own context, waiting and listening for the Lord. Listen in expectation and anticipation for what the Lord wants to share with you.

PRAY
Pray for refugees and those who have been displaced, as well as the nations that are hosting them. Pray that they would hear the gospel and come to know the hope of Jesus.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Cat Caya and her husband Jim have served with CRM since 2008. They recently relocated to California from Kenya, where they served with ETHNE for two years. They are currently continuing to invest in Kenya and other cross-cultural fields from a new home base.


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