'When This is All Over' – Looking Back and Looking Forward

In the first few weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic, many spoke of a return to normal ‘when this is all over’. As the ‘lockdown’ months dragged on, the mood and hopes seemed to shift. We gradually came to realise that so much has changed that, when the immediate crisis is over, there are many ways in which life will be different as we look beyond the year 2020.

Advent brings a time of waiting, of looking back over another year, of new hope and looking forward to new beginnings. In 2020, there have been reminders that, in this life, there will always be surprises, sometimes substantial and unwelcome. We have made it through a difficult year. Looking forward, it is certain there will be new calls upon our ability to respond, to adapt and to grow into possibilities that are ever new. The stories of how we coped in the past, reassure us that we will meet future challenges, and there will be new opportunities and new growth. Where is faith and where is Christ in all this?

The Sunday readings of Advent 2020 recall, yet again, God’s stories of encouragement and promise. Long ago, the prophets foretold a Saviour. God promised to come into the mess and uncertainties, the ‘wilderness’ of human life. Our part is to ‘prepare a way’. Whatever my own personal ‘wilderness’ has been or may be, God meets me there, consoles, comforts and invites me to go forward in hope. Advent recalls that God in Christ comes in many ways. Soon we will celebrate the first Christmas, when God spoke a Word we human beings could understand; a tiny child, Jesus, was born into a family. Christ meets us in our daily lives and with every celebration of Eucharist. When time is ended, Christ will come. We are asked to ‘stay awake’, ready for the possibilities!

Staying alert and ‘awake’ is a skill most of us have fine-tuned in 2020. We have done all that was required of us to keep ourselves and loved ones free of a dangerous infection: sanitiser, masks, care near crowds and much more. We have been awake and alert, paying attention to the circumstances of each moment. Think about the capacities we have developed for remaining alert and ‘paying attention’. ‘When this is all over’ can we become more attentive to the other people in our lives? Can we deepen our awareness of the ways God comes to meet us? Here are two simple, prayerful activities for Advent 2020:

Allow yourself quiet time and a quiet place to reflect on the Sunday readings (Google ‘Universalis Australia’) or this selection of short texts for Advent 2020. Ask God’s Spirit to guide you. What words or phrases stand out for you? Stay with these for a time, ‘listen’ deeply:

· ‘Console my people, console them,’ says your God (Isaiah 40:1).

· Prepare in the wilderness a way for the Lord (Isaiah 40:3).

· Stay awake, because you do not know when the master of the house is coming (Mark 13:35).

· I will hear what the Lord God has to say, a voice that speaks of peace (Psalm 84/85:9).
· For all things give thanks to God (1 Thessalonians 5:18.)

· Mary said, 'You see before you the Lord's servant, let it happen to me as you have said' (Luke 1:38)

· Do not be afraid. Look, I bring you news of great joy … So they hurried away and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger (Luke 2:10-12)

Looking Back and Looking Forward

Take some quiet time in a quiet place to reflect back over the year 2020.

Ask the Spirit of God to guide you. Ponder what comes to mind. As you reflect back:
· What are you most thankful for? What are you least thankful for?
· What have been the gifts of 2020? What gifts do you want to take forward into 2021?

Lyn Breen
Adult Faith Education Sandhurst