Reflection – Advent 2
“I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way: the voice of one crying out in the wilderness……..” John the Baptist, in Mark 1:2,3, NRSV.
“Help is on its way…… we’ll be ready from the start of next week.” Matt Hancock, Health Secretary, proclaiming the coming of the vaccine.
“There is barely any time left……. Four and a half years on from the referendum, we are now approaching the end.” Chris Mason, political commentator, on the Brexit trade deal.
St Mark’s Gospel begins with a voice crying out in the wilderness and urging those who hear it to prepare the way of the Lord, echoing the call of the prophet Isaiah. The news is both ancient and yet current as the figure of John the Baptist cries out in the desert to make the paths of the Lord straight and people from both the countryside of Judea and the city of Jerusalem flock to him.
In the wilderness of the pandemic experience, whether in rural or urban settings, most people in the UK have not been able to flock anywhere during lockdown and the streets, shops and pubs have been deserted in many places. Many voices in this desert have been heard crying out in support, criticism, warning or guidance regarding both the unexpected news that the anticipated vaccine is ready sooner than many anticipated and that new issues in these final days could mean that it may not be possible to meet the imminent deadline for the talks to establish a Brexit trade deal with the EU. It’s also suggested that the RAF may have to fly in the vaccine to avoid ports adversely affected if there is no trade agreement and that 35% of those eligible may refuse the vaccine, which could affect herd immunity. The work of many people from scientists and lab technicians to volunteers, bureaucrats and drivers has gone into ensuring that the vaccine is on its way and may help to save lives, jobs, the NHS, the economy, hospitality, theatres …… But what might be the risks in the supply chain, the vaccine’s efficacy and the local as well as worldwide consequences for people, nations, governments and the accompanying bureaucracy at this complex time of such change?
We shall have to wait and see – an appropriate response during Advent, the season of waiting for plans to be revealed. The first doses of the vaccine are already in the UK – but how long will it take to immunise the population here and be rolled out across the world? The complexity of the task is mind-boggling – but still the voices call, unseen skills and hands assist and the way is being prepared, mountainous though the task may seem. What a challenge and what a time we are living through! John the Baptist calls us all to repentance – but also reminds us of the coming of both Jesus and the Holy Spirit, with whose help we may find strength and possibilities as yet unknown. What is our response to that call today? Perhaps there are small, as well as great, things that could be done to help smooth the way ahead for ourselves and others in these perplexing and complicated times?
Advent invites an inner journey that can be painful, lonely and frightening but, if we allow it, also involves an adventure that can lead to different views and a new way of being and living. It may depend on whether we listen to God’s call in the cacophony of noise and clamour that so often surrounds us. Amidst all this, why not respond to the call of the bishops and unite with countless unseen others to pray the following prayers at 6pm, not only for Wales but for the people and countries who come to mind? Who knows where that may unexpectedly lead us all?!
Advent Prayer For Wales:
The Bishops are inviting everyone to join them in prayer every evening at 6pm from now until Christmas Day.
Heavenly Father, in the midst of a troubled world, you are light and life.
Send us your healing for those who are ill,
your strength for those who are suffering,
your compassion for those who grieve, and
your courage for those who work for the healing and service of others.
Bless our nation of Wales with the life-giving spirit of your love,
and grant us your mercy,
[revealed in the person of Christ your Son]. Amen.
Prayer for the week:
God in heaven,
may the flame of an Advent candle
remind us of brave people
who have shone your light in dark times and places.
Strengthen us to be your messengers today,
never afraid to call out injustice,
but always pointing towards Jesus,
your Son, our Lord and Saviour. Amen.
Canon Robert Townsend