Jane Kennedy from UnitingWorld reflects on her recent time in Indonesia and points us to hope and anticipation in the midst of pain and suffering.

One night a few weeks ago, I found myself dancing around a bonfire in the mountains of Bali, with friends from Timor Leste, West Papua and three other provinces in Indonesia. UnitingWorld’s South East Asia partners had come for a week to strengthen their ability to work more closely together. 

This night the moves were next-level line dancing, the singing mostly terrible but the laughter full of the kind of joy that comes from deep places. It was a sacred moment. One that for a second gave me a glimpse of the global community as it could be. Accepted, forgiven, genuinely connected through commonalities – the journey to resilience, commitment to the Shalom of God. Wholeness. Generosity of spirit.

The people linking arms and voices had seen genocide and poverty, conflict and despair, sickness and injustice. I felt like an outsider with the unseen heaviness I was carrying that week, real to me, but by comparison, I questioned its legitimacy. Yet I was welcomed in, invited into the conga line, asked to sing.

Advent is a time of anticipation, of hope that things can be different, that God will come into our space and time, into our pain and turn it on its head, shake up power structures, change everything. Redeem it all.

From bloodshed to disappointment, we can dare to hope that True Love will reach in and calm our storm.

In the Isaiah 40 passage Jerusalem hears the announcement: Prepare for this! Clear the roads, make the paths straight, level the hills! Still the people hear it “tenderly” (perhaps it was too much to bear that it could be true) and are promised comfort as they anticipate an end to their suffering.

Love is present in our pain and announces hope, there is no place this hope cannot penetrate, the newness of life found in God becoming like us, breathing, walking, talking – feeling, like us.

This is beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning. A holy exchange, where there is pain, let Me take it and give you joy in its place. Let Me carry your load and give you rest.

That we can dare to hope for this, that we can announce that this is coming, that’s Good News.

Emmanuel, God with us. Present with us, infusing us with lightness and anticipation of a new day, a new kind of world. The space between the now and the not yet. Love sublime.

Jane Kennedy works for UnitingWorld as the Associate Director, Programs – Asia and Africa. Image credit: Kukuh Himawan Samudro

Daily Reading Isaiah 40:1-10

Comfort, comfort my people,
    says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
    and proclaim to her
that her hard service has been completed,
    that her sin has been paid for,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand
    double for all her sins.

A voice of one calling:
“In the wilderness prepare
    the way for the Lord;
make straight in the desert
    a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be raised up,
    every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level,
    the rugged places a plain.
And the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
    and all people will see it together.
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

A voice says, “Cry out.”
    And I said, “What shall I cry?”

“All people are like grass,
    and all their faithfulness is like the flowers of the field.
The grass withers and the flowers fall,
    because the breath of the Lord blows on them.
    Surely the people are grass.
The grass withers and the flowers fall,
    but the word of our God endures forever.”

You who bring good news to Zion,
    go up on a high mountain.
You who bring good news to Jerusalem,
    lift up your voice with a shout,
lift it up, do not be afraid;
    say to the towns of Judah,
    “Here is your God!”
10 See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power,
    and he rules with a mighty arm.
See, his reward is with him,
    and his recompense accompanies him.

An Advent series on "Being Present"