Dr Di Rayson captures our collective weariness and longing as we begin our Advent journey in 2020.
On the twenty-third day of Advent, 2020, Sally-Ann Williams touches on our shared weariness and the surprising glimmers of hope which have emerged.
There was no room...
In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.)And everyone went to their own town to register.
So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
Luke 2:1-7 (NIV)
It’s a passage known to anyone who’s been to a Christmas Carols event or watched Carols by Candlelight in the Domain. Jesus' birth is portrayed through romantic images enacted in school plays and carol events and in front of churches across the world. Cute children dressed up as angels. Some as animals. A bed filled with clean fresh straw. And a beautiful reenactment of a mother, father and child radiating light and hope.
The reality of giving birth in that stable at that time was probably a little more like the year we’ve all faced in 2020. Dirty. Smelly. Filled with uncertainty. Darkness and pain. No assurance about what was next. Exhaustion. Fear. Discomfort. Suffering. Hardly the romantic backdrop for a Christmas Carol spectacular.
The challenges we’ve collectively faced this year are many: natural disasters, sickness, economic distress, violence, political uncertainty just to name a few. It’s been a year that has left many people homeless and in despair. Alone. Feeling as though there is no place for them in their home, their community or their country. Not too dissimilar from the situation Mary found herself in. Displaced. Uncertain. No room available.
“She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.”
Despite the dark year that 2020 has been, or perhaps because of it, I think we’ve seen a glimpse of hope. We’ve managed to find renewed connection to community and to each other. We’ve seen people respond to the circumstances and needs of those around them with kindness and compassion: with letterbox drops offering to support our neighbours in the street. There’s been generosity of giving in response to bushfires and natural disasters, pandemics, climate crisis and more. We’ve seen children and grandparents uniting in conversation and action to bring to light injustices. And when we’ve started asking “are you ok?” at the start of every meeting, we’ve given space and time for a real answer. In the midst of the darkness there’s a glimmer of hope of what is to come. And we’ve all experienced being without hope one moment and sharing hope the next.
This year you might be experiencing Christmas time through the lens of the well known carol experience. Bright-eyed children reenacting the birth of Jesus in a stable with sweet smelling fresh hay for a bed. Full of hope and joy. Or you might be experiencing it more like Mary did. Dark. Smelly. Messy and uncertain. Both experiences are real and both are shared. It’s in the honesty of recognising the weariness, the shared discomfort and pain that we are also able to share hope. Hope of change. Hope of community. Hope that we can stand alongside one another and offer love and grace. We might not see it in all it’s glory but we know that there is a hope coming. A hope that we can all take part in. A hope that connects and unites us with our own humanity. A hope that offers a way for us to connect and bring light to the world.
Sally-Ann Williams is the CEO of a deep tech incubator. She works with entrepreneurs to solve problems through science and technology. She's passionate about inclusion and ethical tech.