I can see a whole lot of people with their hands to their heart. For just about all of us are able to think of something good that has brought us hope this week. Isn’t that wonderful?! Maybe we will hear from just one or two who would like to share....
Thank you. Now looking over a bit wider time frame I have some beautiful experiences that I would like to share with you as well. The first is of children and their often exemplary attitude of thankfulness. All this past week Penny and I have been privileged to walk with our two Anglican schools through carol services and end of years celebrations and to witness with joy the extraordinary giftedness of our young people. I was hugely impressed this week for example by the skills of young musicians in our schools. Yet there are wonderful examples right under our eyes in our own parish life. Do we notice them properly I wonder? We really can’t leave appreciation of our children to their parents or to volunteer and paid church workers. Perhaps one vital thing we could all do this Advent which would really enrich our parish would be to give thanks for the children among us. Can we do that do you think? Our children in this parish are truly amazing, you know. We have a lovely girl at St Marks for instance called Hope. She is indeed well named, because she spreads hope wherever she goes. Have you noticed the beautiful children here at St Luke’s too? They are typically full of life and joy, and an inspiration to us all in the way they also learn about the things of God in our Atrium. Our children are thus great sources of hope, not just because of their youth, but because of their attitude of open receptivity and thankfulness that lies at the heart of Advent. Over the last couple of years, we have also had a gratefulness challenge in Advent, and I encourage you to take that challenge again this year if you feel moved to do so. For when we pay attention to the things for which we can be thankful it can transform our whole attitude to life, instilling in us a daily and growing sense of hope.
The second experience I would like to share with you that fills my heart with hope comes from the Parish Dinner on Saturday night. I am sure those who were there would agree that we had a lovely evening of fun and fellowship- a veritable foretaste of the heavenly banquet. Yet one person stood out for me; young Josh Mitchell. For, as many of your know, Josh suffers from Downs Syndrome and multiple disorders. As such, he was probably the person least able to move around in the whole room, tied as he is to a tank of oxygen much of the time. However, when it came time for some dancing, he was the first one on the floor, persuading Penny and I, and then his mother, to join him. Before long, others who had been timid were joining in as well. Not only that, at the start of proceedings it was Josh who obliged Penny and I to go around to greet people, and who made a point of welcoming the young man who had come to sing so beautifully for us. Josh may not have some communication and movement skills that most of us take for granted, yet he knew how to welcome and encourage others. In the kingdom of heaven all our false distinctions of ability will pass away. In the meanwhile Josh gave us a little glimpse of what that kingdom will be like and embodied our Advent hope. Josh is to be confirmed here on Tuesday December 8 at 11.30 - if you are free, please come and support him.
Thirdly, I am also looking forward to tomorrow with much hope. For tomorrow Aunty Mary Mitchell from Cunnamulla is coming to St. Luke's hall at lunchtime to launch her book. It is a story of immense courage in the face of adversity and I hope as many of you as can will come and listen to her. Mary is an Aboriginal woman born in 1938 at Bob's Hut at Tilbooroo station, Eulo. She has a story of heartache and joy, from total illiteracy to university degrees, from having nothing to owning a car and computer. Her story reflects the immense changes that have taken place in Australian society and attitudes in seventy five plus years - and the enormous amount of work that is still to be done. Mary's is thus a prophetic story - a story for Advent, when the voices of the Biblical prophets ring out, urging us to seek justice, love mercy and walk humbly with our God. Mary is an apparently ordinary woman, whose life's journey and accomplishments are truly remarkable. She gives hope to us all that by little step by little step truth and justice can prevail. Mary's is a challenging story and that is as it should be, for true hope can never be found without challenge. Hope springs up in all the places of deepest darkness and difficulty in our lives and urges us towards transformation, for ourselves and our world.
So as we begin a new church year, let us take to our hearts the gift of hope and let us deepen that gift every day as we pay attention and notice the people and things which give us hope each day.
In the name of Christ, the hope of the world. Amen
by Jon Inkpin, for Advent Sunday 2015