The Second Sunday of Advent is here …

..in the wilderness, prepare the way .. make way … cry out!

This is the season to watch and wait, to keep awake. Who will watch and wait with us? The prophets watch and wait, then and now. Prophets are the ones who know the most important things. They cry out: Stop, watch, pay attention – Something incredible is going to happen. The prophets know which way to go. They are the ones who show us the way to go. They are not usually comfortable people to be with. Today we remember the prophet Isaiah, and my inspiration for this reflection comes from Bishop Stephen Cottrell’s latest book, ‘ Walking backwards to Christmas’, and Rachel Hackenberg’s blog ‘Comfort O my people’ http://rachelhackenberg.com/comfort-o-my-people/

Sometimes, moments of clarity come. Often they appear in times of desperation, when there seems nowhere else to go, when all defences are down and the ways of controlling life have been tried and found wanting. In the days when darkness threatened to engulf the country and enemy forces were converging, when there was nowhere to run to.. I found myself in the Temple. Looking for some peace, instead I found disturbance and great conflict within myself. The darkness and light searched me out and I did not know where to look. It was as if an ember was lit within me, a burning coal touched my tongue. Then I was full of words, and I had to speak out. ‘Here I am’ I said, ‘send me.’ Just as I am, I was made a messenger of God. It was not comfortable.

Comfort – comfort my people. Yes, I wanted to give that comfort to others, to myself. Though there was also much to cry about. Before the soothing peace must come a clarity of seeing. Recognising destruction, devastation and violence, carelessness, denying that of God in creation all around – land and people. Mountains of stumbling blocks separate us one from another – barricades, barriers, walls that we build higher and stronger.  That is why the wild places are so important. The wilderness is the place we can learn to see again. I see the horrors we continue to do to each other. I see the injustices, the calamities and the pain. I see it as a gathering, glowering darkness. After the seeing comes the confessing.The wilderness is also the place where the wild spirit of truth rides the invisible wind, breathing new life into being. After the confessing comes the movement into something new – a dismantling of barriers and barricades, a making way. Then, perhaps, can come the transformation that comes like a birth, with blood and water, with pain and joy. Stop, watch, pay attention. Something incredible is going to happen. There is a fragile sign of hope – a young woman is with child and she will bear a son, Emmanuel. How hope and peace might come as a child who needs so much, who needs to know the strength and tenderness of a mother’s embrace, I do not know. And yet, as I cry now, many will lift their voices to cry – Here, here is your God!

What is it that you need to cry out, for yourself, for others, for your God?

Cry out for broken hearts to find a way to rejoice.

Cry out for tired minds and work-worn bodies to find rest.

Cry out for battered bodies and souls to find healing.

Cry out for the hungry to be fed, for the homeless to find shelter,

for the imprisoned to be set free.

Cry out for victims and oppressors, that power may be shared wisely.

Cry out for tenderness and compassion.

Cry out even if the world around you seems to be ending.

Cry out not for false words of comfort,

Cry out for the peace that you can be part of, that you can make way for.

..in the wilderness, prepare the way .. make way … cry out!

The Angel of the North stands tall outside Gateshead, rooted into the hillside, a reminder of past industry and a challenge to future care and compassion for land and people.

The Angel of the North stands tall outside Gateshead, rooted into the hillside, a reminder of past industry and a challenge to future care and compassion for land and people.

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