Water in a Dry Place

In the northern hemisphere, it is growing darker, as winter gains its hold. In the traditional church, people are lighting candles against the growing darkness, one each week until Christmas comes, and the shortest day of the year turns towards the coming light.

And so, we have Advent, a season to mark the coming Christ, a light that darkness cannot comprehend, or extinguish.

It’s beautiful.

Here we are, parked in the other side of the world, barricading ourselves against the heat, as dust and ash fill the skies. There’s a total fire ban, and we are lighting candles? Our season is growing brighter, not darker. How shall we mark the Advent journey in our rigorous brown land?

Our European sisters and brothers light candles against the dark; we will pour water against the dust and fire.

A nameless woman found her way through the crowd to Jesus and discovered healing by the touch of his robe.

A woman, similarly unnamed, drops her last two copper coins in the offering bowl, despite the reality that she was worthy to receive an offering, in her poverty. A woman, equally anonymous, defies the deprecations of some disciples to anoint Jesus with costly perfume in the days before his death.

And Mary accepts God’s challenge, to bear and birth the Christ Child, despite risk and circumstance.

These women we remember; they acted prophetically, to proclaim hope against despair, light against darkness.

Thus, we pour water in a drought, to mark our hope in the One who comes. One of the oldest affirmations we make is, “Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.” We assert our hope because of what God has done.

We pour water because, despite the changing seasons, Jesus is Lord. We pour water because the struggle of the drought and the violence of the fires do not describe our faith.

We fill the font, asserting that Christmas is the hallmark of God’s promise – that Christ will return and restore our beleaguered creation.

Advent is a season of waiting. For many, it is grief which wounds us, or illness, or broken relationships, or injustice. Tinsellated trees and reindeer have few words to say about these. But God in the world, hope despite everything? God entrusting us with God’s Son? God, for us, for creation, in love and forgiveness and hope?

This is why we pour the water. This.

Prayer for Those Involved in the Bushfires

God of life and death,
our prayers today are where our hearts and minds
have been during these last days
and where they have been drawn so early in this season;
with those communities and individuals
whose lives have been damaged
in differing ways by the bushfires.

We pray for all those who have been affected;
for the families and friends of those who have been killed.
We pray for those who are missing,
for their safety, for the fears of those who love them;
bring each one safely home, we pray.  

We pray for those who have been injured and survived:
for physical and emotional trauma;
for the fear and helplessness experienced;
for the anger and frustration at the injustice
of unavoidable disaster.

We pray for those who have lost their home and property
or are facing such loss:
for those who have been forced to leave
their memories and belongings;
for the fear & disorientation of all involved;
Heal them from their nightmare memories.

We are aware of those who have lost stock,
or are watching their stock suffer
sometimes with inevitable consequences;
we are conscious of those
who are struggling to find feed and water
for the stock under their care.

We pray for all involved in fighting the fire:
for our Rural Fire Service and their leadership
and all those we know and those we do not know;
we pray for courage in a place of fear;
for new strength in the face of exhaustion;
for people who have travelled distances
in order to resource those who experience fatigue.

We pray for all who offer support and care at this time:
for the various agencies, churches and community groups;
for disaster response chaplains;
for government services as they are activated;
for friends and neighbours, known and unknown;
for providing a shoulder upon which to lean, or weep;
we give thanks, too,
for the generosity of many, in small and large ways,
towards those who are struggling.

We are mindful of the days, weeks and months ahead,
for many dangerous days yet to come,
for seasons of recovery and rebuilding,
of homes, farms, lives and communities;
we pray for strength, courage, patience and hope
as grieving continues,
as frustrations rise
and inevitable changes occur.

We pray, too, knowing that we are entering a harsher climate,
less predictable and more volatile;
as we care for each other, help us to care for your creation,
to be worthy stewards and advocates
of all which you have made.

Keep us faithful and alert
in our praying and our action;
in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.