This Sunday 3rd December will see the beginning of Advent 2017 and the approach to Christmas. For many, this will come as a period characterized by hope and anticipation; of preparation for a new year, of time with friends and family, and of a safe future. Advent is also a time for fasting and reflecting on the excess that tends to be displayed during holiday celebrations; a time of festivities, of ‘heading home for Christmas’, exchanging gifts, opening chocolate Advent calendars, lighting candles or hosting festive gatherings. It is no exaggeration that notions of Christmastime and home are frequently intertwined, however for many who live in destitution, precarity or need, the ritual of spending the Christmas time in the comfort of our homes feels out of place. In this light, the interpretation of Advent resonates with those of us who live in safety, and with the assurance of food, comfort and a home as we anticipate the celebrations and the beginning of a new year.
Alongside the anticipation of the celebrations for Christmas, the hope that the world can be made better, and the prospect that our lives and our societies can be made afresh as a new year begins also marks the time of Advent. It is easy to neglect that this notion of anticipation and waiting can be a gift in itself that not all are in a position to experience or enjoy. For many of the most vulnerable in our societies including the homeless, refugees, people in prison, or those suffering poverty, addiction or destitution, then the meaning given to Advent as a transitory period between a past of precarity or fear and the expected salvation in the future can extend far beyond the weeks in December into an uncertain and frightening tomorrow. At Eurodiaconia, our members work so that the hope, joy and peace celebrated at Christmas be present year-round. Diaconial organisations across Europe support those who live in fear, precarity or darkness so that they may see a great light. (Isaiah 9:2)
Fighting against injustice becomes all the more important at this time of year, to support those who live without the promise that home, food and security will arrive with the 25th December. Let us take this message as we begin Advent and the approach to Christmas, and dedicate our work so that the hope, joy and peace celebrated at Christmas be felt by all, and that those most in need find a new home, find the protection of a new family, a community or country.
Have a good weekend,