Is there hope?
Be silent for a moment and consider:
What do you do when you feel overwhelmed?
Where do you find hope when things seem hopeless?
This Advent prayer series has highlighted incredibly disturbing facts and realities about the refugee situation in our world, from the vast number of displaced people to the tiny fraction of refugees being resettled; the millions of newly displaced people that are expected in the next year; the danger to women and children on the move; the poverty of the nations that are hosting most of the world’s refugees; and the generational displacement of Indigenous people in places like Canada.
Where is the hope?
The book of Revelation is not one that is normally used for Christmas. It describes a world that has gone so far wrong it seems beyond redemption, with the overwhelming forces of Empire, violence and greed pitted against vulnerable communities of Jesus-followers. In spite of this, the message of Revelation is one of hope against despair. Remain faithful, the book says, persevere, and you will see the mountains brought low and the valleys raised up. It is the fulfillment of Mary’s Magnificat.
This is particularly appropriate because in Revelation 12 we see the Nativity from a supernatural point of view. John describes the events of Jesus’ birth through the poetic and apocalyptic imagery of an enormous red Dragon and a pregnant woman clothed with the sun. When the child Jesus is born, the Dragon (the Accuser, the ancient serpent) waits to devour him the moment he is born. But the child and the woman are snatched up to safety.
The Dragon is frustrated, and ultimately expelled from heaven, which brings both joy and woe. Joy, because it has been defeated in heaven, and will no longer accuse humanity before the throne. Woe, because its expulsion brings it to earth, filled with fury, where it will wage war on the followers of Christ and the creation of God through deception. But there is more joy than woe, because the ultimate defeat of the Dragon will come by the blood of the Lamb and the testimonies of the saints. Even the created order frustrates the Dragon as the earth swallows up the waters the Dragon spews forth.
The Dragon’s defeat is assured. It cannot devour the child, it cannot destroy the woman, and it cannot deceive or overcome the woman’s other offspring, who are the Church, the saints of God. But the battle is still fierce, and the defeat of the Dragon involves the martyrdom of the saints who are obedient unto death just like their saviour and king.
Christmas is often thought of as a time of comfort and joy, but it must also be remembered as a time of invasion, danger, flight, warfare, death, martyrdom, kingdoms crumbling, the announcement of a new king. As we pay attention to the woes of this world and the seemingly impossible situation facing millions of refugees, let us remember that we all still have reason to hope. In the end, the Dragon is defeated.
Read: Revelation 12:1-17
Pray: Sing “O Little Town of Bethlehem”, paying special attention to the line,
“The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.”
Our vision is to help people survive and recover from forced displacement. We do this together with the church, both globally, and locally in Canada.