Advent 2020 – Waiting
Based upon: 1 Thessalonians 5 : 1-11
By Revd Rebecca Amoroso, Prison Chaplain – Please Share Widely
Now, concerning these times, my brothers and sisters, I think we may have all read, heard, seen, and written, enough! However, this season of Advent begins a new year for the Church; we Christians get a head start on the future… while the rest of world is trying to catch up, we have entered already into the joys and mysteries of Advent – expectant, but maybe like me, under prepared. Each year I have such plans for this season: reading, praying, retreats… but I have so often spent my Advents waiting… for a Bishops’ Advisory Panel, waiting for the news of the birth of my niece, waiting to begin a new job (twice), and moving house (twice). All of which, unexpected, though somehow quite appropriate, have rather got in the way of my plans. And, if I’m honest, resulted in some early nights and late mornings. Those who sleep, sleep as much as they can, especially in times such as these. But as for plans, this year, I haven’t really made any. I have been working, praying, waiting, and thinking. I have been reflecting on the Advent imagery of light and shade, the glorious collect exhorting us to “cast off the works of darkness, and put on the armour of light”, in the light of 2020.
St Paul tells us we are ‘children of light and of day’, ‘not of night or of darkness’. How does this feel in the context of the Black Lives Matter movement? In the light of the casual – and overt – racism being exposed not just in our institutions, church included, but the fabric of our society? We are all familiar with the ways ‘dark’ and ‘light’ have been used to insult and oppress, and if not, there is much to learn. The light of truth has been shone brightly and courageously on prejudice and inequality this year. There is much work still to be done, and armed with faith and love, we hope and persevere, for we are – all -destined for salvation.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “A prison cell is like our situation in Advent: one waits, hopes, does this and that, meaningless acts, but the door is locked and can only be opened from the outside. That is how I feel just now”. This feels particularly relevant in the context both of my ministry, and a year in which we are all experiencing something of imprisonment. This October, the slogan for Prisons Week was “United in Lockdown”, and the free posters have made their way on to the walls of many of the men I serve. These words resonate with men, and women, and young people in prison, with their deep need to belong. For some, this is at the heart of their behaviour. My heart breaks each time we send a man out into the cold with no safe place to sleep, nowhere to belong, and expect him to rebuild a life. We are instructed to encourage one another, and build one another up. Our family, friends, colleagues, our neighbours. And who are our neighbours?
In your prayers this Advent, please remember those who wait patiently – or not so patiently – for release from prison. Those who long to belong. Those who suffer prejudice and oppression. And I wish you all peace, joy and rest.