Advent Reflections 2022: 1st December

Isaiah 2: 1-5
As I write this, the World Cup is underway. Have you realised that almost all football fans support the country where they were born? We take it so much for granted, we almost don’t notice this. Yet who among us chose to be born in the place where we were born? The answer, of course, is none of us.

It’s worth taking a moment to remember just how we ended up in this world of nations. Over the centuries, those who came before us fought wars, drew lines, built walls, named territories, conquered countries. Born into all this, many of us are quick to identify with our countries: ‘I’m Belgian,’ ‘I’m Bolivian,’ ‘I’m Brazilian’ – especially when this works in our favour, giving us a fantastic football team or a powerful passport (British, yes; Bangladeshi, less so). Let’s be honest: it gives us a sense of belonging. We know not just where we are, but who we are. Then come the claims – claims of exceptionalism, or divine favour. ‘God favours Belize over Barbados’, ‘God bless Brunei, and not Bulgaria’. We all like to believe we are special, don’t we – the chosen ones. Blessed am I, for I was born here, and not there.

Today’s reading offers a massive challenge to all this – could it be that, to God, our precious borders don’t actually matter? For ‘in days to come’ all the nations will stream to the mountain to learn God’s ways of justice and to walk God’s paths of righteousness (vv.2-3). The borders that we cling to fade away as weapons become waterpipes, and wars cease (v.4).

The Christmas story brilliantly reinforces Isaiah’s message. Our God chose to be born in Bethlehem, but Mary, Joseph and family spent Jesus’ early years in Egypt (which doesn’t begin with ‘B’, unfortunately). As the Son of God wandered around Galilee, Samaria and Judea, with no place to lay his head, he came to tell us that God has room for us all, and he urged us to follow his example and make room for others, no matter where they come from – or which team they support.

Nick Palfreyman

Bless our Advent, Lord, as we seek to walk in your light.
Bless all who are struggling in one way or another because of borders:
bless their Advent too, Lord, and help us to make room for them
in our prayers and in our lives. Amen.