Chelsea Van Der Poel explores how regardless the season, God's goodness creates a hopeful new day.
On the twelfth day of Advent, 2021, Rev John Stanley invites us to see and stand with the little ones.
The little ones
But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah,
who are one of the little clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
one who is to rule in Israel,
whose origin is from of old,
from ancient days.
Therefore he shall give them up until the time
when she who is in labour has brought forth;
then the rest of his kindred shall return
to the people of Israel.
And he shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the Lord,
in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.
And they shall live secure, for now he shall be great
to the ends of the earth;
and he shall be the one of peace.
Micah 5:2-5a NRSV
But you,. . . little one. . . from you shall come forth . . .
Micah the prophet of Moresheth, in the country south east of Jerusalem, saw different.
In a world of big and mighty, of powerful and merciless, he saw the little ones.
Micah saw YHWH and knew there is none like YHWH.
Micah knew the YHWH saw the little ones and that gave him a clarity about how things are; insight unavailable to those blinded by the city lights and the power of big business.
After all, it is surely logical that big wins, that power triumphs and might conquers! Were it not so, in the main, we would not settle on these tropes so easily.
This is not that story.
This story suggests that it is not always that way. That there is an alternative end to this story, where the little ones will stand against the irresistible force and the most vulnerable will stand and protect their little ones.
Micah is a promise that has already been reacquired for communities in need. From the 8th century crisis, to the 6th century community in exile, to us. We can take these promises for today, for the one who made them still raises up little ones.
My wife, Alison, and I have had the privilege of sitting with the little ones. Children abused or betrayed, unprotected. Addicts overwhelmed by the irresistible forces of despair, mental illness and addiction. Whole towns left behind by a disinterested economy undergirded by exploitative policies.
We have seen the little ones rise, tentative at first, expecting another assault from the darkness. We have seen them stretch out, exploring the safety of nurturing community and
You and I know the one about the baby in the manger, but we still struggle to see other outcomes for the Foetal Alcohol Syndrome child, for the ice addict, or for systems of economic injustice.
This is how unjust systems hold power. Unchallenged by little ones or their allies, they flail along, lashing out at challengers. Until we can imagine a different outcome, we have no alternative to fight for.
But we have seen, and we know the Little One, born from the homeless unwed Mum, triumphs over death and all its ways. We have seen Aboriginal Deaths in Custody and a Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Abuse. We know the little ones stand up and feed their flock.
We have promise and we have precedent and we know we are called to this.
So let us stand with those little ones.
Or better still, let us help them stand.
John and Alison Stanley have been living and facilitating community since meeting in Kings Cross in 1988. Each place they have landed around the world has taught them new ways of practising radical community. John and Alison have recently relocated from living and ministering in lutruwita, Tasmania, and are now living on Gadigal Country in Sydney, where John is now the rector at St Georges Paddington Anglican Church. John writes out of their experience of sharing life with hurting and broken people and together, thriving people.
Lord our God, there is none like you.
Thank you that in your love for us there is nothing that can separate us from your love in Christ Jesus.
Thank you that your love for the little ones lifts us all.
Show us, Lord, how to be good allies for other little ones.
Photograph: John Englezos, Sunset, Diamond Creek, Wurundjeri Country, Victoria
Visual Description: Vivid pink and deep grey cloud is over a light blue sky, above the silhouettes of gumtrees.