As Christmas approaches and Tesco runs out of £1 selection boxes (which have never been the same as the 1980s, back when Curly-Wurlys were properly sized), we await news of many sorts: vaccines, race seasons, changes to borders etc. Fitting, then, that this is the season of Advent; the time for awaiting Good News.
Beyond the opportunity to get a calendar with treats inside (or my friend's alternative where he gets a different beer every day until Christmas – whereupon he receives a bottle-opener …), Advent is the oft-forgotten practice of waiting expectantly for a revelation.
It is perhaps best summed-up in the story of the Magi (Wise Men); they had seen something of beauty and wonder but were unaware of what the truth was until AFTER they found the child, Jesus. That truth was something they travelled long and hard for; a perilous journey risking their lives, to find their revelation was a revolution.
Their expectancy was for a new leadership which would be a sign of God taking us away from darkness. They knew it was regal, of stature, but they misunderstood the significance until the star led them to a sacred place, far from the corruption of royal palaces.
It brought them into a loving home of a gentle family, to new parents only beginning to learn the importance of their child. They put aside all preconceptions and assumptions, all political consequences and niceties. They had been confronted by angels and dreams, and believed in a God they were not completely aware of. But they trusted. In a way they had never known how to before.
Their trust, in an expectant time and in anticipation of Good News, transformed them and those around them: imagine yourself being confronted with some of the world's most important people, only to discover they kneel before you, because of the child you are responsible for.
That can seem worlds away from where we are now, but it isn't. The world desperately needs Good News, and every day. We hear whispers of new medicines, promises of visiting loved ones, new presidents claiming to change the tides of hate, suggestions that life may go 'back to normal' soon.
But, like 2000 years ago, life can never return to the 'normal' we used to have. Nor should it. Life is a constant process of learning about ourselves and the God who returns every day with Good News to make us realise we have something to live for. We are given all we have in order to improve upon it by going after the beauty of life and seizing it. Like Wise Men in an unknown land.
Wise Men who know they are after something good, and will do whatever it takes to get there. If we live with the anticipation of something Good waiting for us down the road, we will find it.
If 2020 has shown us anything, it is that we never know what lies around the corner, and that we must do all that we can to secure for our future the love and kindness which lies at the heart of humanity, given to us by God. We recapture that when we search for it and wait expectantly for all those times of hope, joy and love which come to us when Christmas is truly lived.
Christmas is the culmination of Advent: humanity's journey towards the light which leads us out of darkness. May we dedicate ourselves to that journey, like Wise Men in an unknown land, doing whatever it takes to live in loving anticipation of better times.