Carols on the High Street on Christmas Eve was, I suppose, a community cultural event. I am not sure how many people there thought about the story of the birth of Jesus as a world changing event. Or how many are expecting the return of Jesus to usher in a new world. I wonder if many people in the churches think about the significance of the first or second coming. In the Quaker Meeting for Worship that morning there was an hour of silence. Is there nothing to be said?
I read as preparation the first two chapters of Luke’s Gospel, the stories of the births of John and Jesus. What struck me was the even handed way ‘Luke’ tells the two stories, weaving them together with angelic messages and prophecies. The angel Gabriel says of John, that he will “turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.” However, when Zechariah, John’s father, expresses his hopes it becomes not a vision of a renewed people but a defeat of their enemies and so preparing the people for God. Simeon, when he sees Jesus, gives thanks to God for the “salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.” When the role of Jerusalem is a current political issue, it is sobering to reflect on what Israel and Palestine hope for, both for themselves and for others. Is there a vision of peoples living in peace together, or just a desire for security for oneself?
As many others did, I spend Christmas Day with my family. We are looking forward to two births next year. What world will they enter? Do we have hope that we will be nearer peace and plenty for all? There is a piece in the news about research that suggests we react more strongly to bad news than to good. This might be a survival characteristic. I do not like having to be faced with violence and those who want to destroy, but, I suppose, if we want to create good news, and a better world, then we need to be aware of the forces that make for fear and hostility. Not only to be aware, but also to be prepared to act to create peace and goodwill.
Having given up any belief in a ‘second coming’, what basis do I have for trusting that there will be a better world? The same article points out that there is good news, and plenty of it. We just don’t hear or see it. There are millions of acts of kindness, ways in which people are turning hate into friendship, and movements which make for increased health and wellbeing. However, there are still concerns for the planet and for the species which are being threatened by human activity.
We need to see the world differently, and live so as to make it different. The map which is the featured image of this blog is a version called the Peters projection, produced decades ago. Which gives a different representation of the land mass of each continent from the one which is most often used. Africa, for example, gains greater significance, and Europe becomes more marginal.
We are realising that the axis of world power is changing, to the east and south. Climate change is going to mean rising sea levels which will change the coastlines of the world. Mass movements of people may become a regular feature of our history. Who will be the hero’s and heroines of peace and justice in this new world of tomorrow?