The film ‘Room’ is being screened in Kingston, based on the novel of the same title by Irish-Canadian Donoghue. Jack is a five year old whose world since birth has been a small room, where he and his abducted mother are being held hostage. It is a moving story of a mother’s strong love for her child, determined to grow him in life and love despite their confined space and hard circumstances. Their struggles continue however after their escape. The realities of a larger life can be a challenge.
On this second Sunday of Advent we continue with the passages of scripture used by Jennens and Handel in their oratorio Messiah. Immediately after the opening words of assurance ‘Comfort, comfort my people’ (Isaiah 40:1), there are words of warning. ‘The Lord whom you seek will suddenly come … But who can endure the day of his coming?’ (Malachi 3:2). When the long-expected ‘day of his coming’ finally arrives, there will be freedom and justice, but everything will change, including us. The prophet described the experience like that of a ‘refiner’s fire’ by which black lumps of ore give way to precious silver and gold.
As Christians we believe that God has come, in Jesus Christ. And Jesus has shown us the larger life, broad and deep, true and eternal. This life is so much more than we have known that it can be a challenge, even a struggle, to accept and to grow into. ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbour as yourself’ (Mark 12:29-31). The challenge often lies more with the second commandment than the first. ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger … and did not minister to you? Truly I say to you, as you did it not to one of these the least of these, you did it not to me’ (Matthew 25:31-46).
The Lord has come, and we are growing into a new life. It is all new, and it can be hard. It can be as if our homeland had become a war zone, and after years of deprivation we are suddenly granted the opportunity to escape. But we have only six hours to pack our belongings, and can take only 100 kilos on the plane. There are excited arguments within the family, about what would be taken and what would be left behind. At the airport, ‘Ready?’ ‘Yes’ ‘Did you weigh everything?’ ‘Yes’ ‘Did you weigh the children?’. In a moment, the family albums, jewelry, laptops and so much more become garbage. As we encounter the Holy One in Christ, as we take up our freedom in him, our priorities change.
As I hear this passage sung, I feel myself being asked, What is most important in my life? What do I need to let go of so I can hold onto and enjoy that which is most important? In the footsteps of Christ, I know that the answer will have little to do with things, and everything to do with people … friends and strangers, neighbours and refugees.