Shane Fenwick, a Case Manager with Mission Australia and postgraduate theological student, reflects on his time in Jerusalem and the importance of making space for others this Christmas.

With the morning noise of Jerusalem’s Old City echoing in the background, I listened intently to the two speakers who had been invited to share their stories with us. But these were no ordinary speakers. There I was, along with my fellow international delegates, hearing the painful stories of two people: one Palestinian, one Israeli. The Palestinian woman, the mother of three daughters, shared the story of how her husband was brutally left for dead on the side of the road. It wasn’t ‘till hours later that an ambulance was finally called, but he had lost too much blood. The Israeli, a young man, later shared with us about his sister, who was cruelly murdered in a vicious knife attack. Two human beings, one from each ‘side’, sharing their stories of pain and loss. 

We live in a world broken by violence and injustice.

We don’t have to travel across to the other side of the world to witness this reality, either. Daily, I see this same brokenness in the lives of young people across Sydney. The seventeen-year-old boy who took his own life because he felt like life was not worth living. The young woman, 6 months pregnant, forced to live on the streets because she had no other option. Or the high-school aged boy who feared going home to his violent, drunken father. 

Wherever we find beauty, we are seemingly able to match that with great pain. 

Yet, as we open to the beginning of Isaiah chapter 11, we are presented with these prophetic words of hope:

The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze, their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den. They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain; for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.

In the midst of a world of brokenness, this season of Advent is an invitation to us to make space to wait in hopeful expectation for the One who set into motion this new world. A new world where violence no longer has the last word, but rather one where enemies lie down together in peace and friendship. A world which was birthed in the strangest of places: a smelly stable in the back-end of Bethlehem. Peruvian theologian Gustavo Gutierrez writes: 

To the eyes of Christians the incarnation is the irruption of God into human history: an incarnation into littleness and service in the midst of overbearing power exercised by the mighty of the world; an irruption that smells of the stable. 

The Son of God was born into a little people, a nation of little importance by comparison with the great powers of the time. Furthermore, he took flesh among the poor in a marginal area – namely, Galilee; he lived with the poor and emerged from among them to inaugurate a kingdom of love and justice. 

During this time of expectation, may we make space for this God who brings peace not through great power, but through littleness and service. Even more so, may we be attentive in making space for those suffering at the hands of overbearing power: the poor, the stranger, and the outcast. And as we look forward in hopeful expectation, may the God of peace birth within each of us the world which is to come: where the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. 

Shane Fenwick is a Case Manager with Mission Australia in northern Sydney, as well as a postgraduate student with Charles Sturt University’s School of Theology. Image credit: Rob Bye

Daily Reading Isaiah 11:1-10

1 A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
    from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
2 The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—
    the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
    the Spirit of counsel and of might,
    the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord—
3 and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.

He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes,
    or decide by what he hears with his ears;
4 but with righteousness he will judge the needy,
    with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.
He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth;
    with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.
5 Righteousness will be his belt
    and faithfulness the sash around his waist.

6 The wolf will live with the lamb,
    the leopard will lie down with the goat,
the calf and the lion and the yearling together;
    and a little child will lead them.
7 The cow will feed with the bear,
    their young will lie down together,
    and the lion will eat straw like the ox.
8 The infant will play near the cobra’s den,
    and the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest.
9 They will neither harm nor destroy
    on all my holy mountain,
for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord
    as the waters cover the sea.

10 In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his resting place will be glorious.

An Advent series on "Being Present"