When asked in adolescence and early adulthood, where I would live if I could choose to be anywhere in the world at all, my responses consistently indicated where I would not venture as opposed to a specific place of preference: you will not find me wherever there is a possibility of tectonic plates shifting, of the earth shaking, of fiery lava spewing, or of land being swallowed up into the sea.
The revival of the disaster film genre in 1997 with James Cameron’s romantic reworking of the “Titanic” tragedy and the subsequent refinement of special effects and makeup artistry to capture the horror of these calamities from which one special person or family must escape have further convinced me that I never ever want to find myself on shaky ground … or in a small boat on rough sea … or at the top of a very tall building (although I must admit that the top of a very short ladder invokes the same level of fear for me).
However, the reality which confronts me every time I flip through a newspaper or turn on the television or even just take a quick look through my Facebook stream to see what family and friends are up to is that the whole world is on very shaky ground at the moment – and that the disasters we should be most afraid of are not natural, but (hu)man-made…
… the ongoing armed conflict in Syria …
… BREXIT …
… the protests and unrest after Donald Trump was declared President-elect of the United States …
… the continuing struggle of the #FeesMustFall campaign eclipsed by the economic impact of internal strife and allegations of corruption within the ANC …
… the 21 million refugees of the world for whom no one really wants to take responsibility …
… the prophet of Doom and other religious people and pastors whose behaviour has become a sound reason for rejecting faith in its many forms ….
Leading into the season of Advent, a powerful word from the Old Testament challenges us:
Comfort, comfort my people …
… in the desert prepare the way for the Lord, make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God …
… lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid ….
Isaiah 40:1, 4, 9
For the last week I have wondered, “What message do I have to bear into broken places full of hurt and despair?” and “How do I speak with confidence and integrity when I, myself, am feeling unsettled and unsafe in light of what is happening all around us?”
At the end of Isaiah 40, this invitation rang through:
Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men (and women) stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.
As we move into a time of watching and waiting, of anticipation of the dawning of Christ’s kingdom and the celebration of his birth, the words we offer and the way we act should speak not of a smug superiority that we are on the right way in a world that is flying upside-down, but rather that in a time when the future seems uncertain and shaky and many of us have lost trust in those elected (or self-proclaimed) as our leaders, we can be sure-footed in the eternal promises of the One who holds the whole world in Their hands.
We may not have the answers that people are after, we may not have the strength or the skill or the influence to change the world in a radical way but we are people of hope – even as the grass withers and the flowers fall and the glory of nations passes away. We have a voice to lift up, a way to open, a comfort to offer:
The Word of our God stands forever,
The faithfulness of our God never fails.
Though the earth shifts and spins upon her axis
and the power of nations and leaders ebb and flow
and we never know fully what the next day will bring,
as we stand sure-footed in the strength of the Beginning-and-the-End,
our spirit will be renewed,
our resilience will be increased,
and our prospect will be transformed
by the One-who-is-never-weary,
who lifts us up on eagle’s wings.