Helen Killick and Gerard Sowney are joint Chaplains in Lagan College, Belfast. The college has supported the work of Habitat for a number of years. Read their reflection below.
Today, the readings in the Catholic lectionary include some verses from the prophet Zechariah: “The Lord says, ‘Sing for joy, people of Jerusalem! I am coming to live among you!’ …Many nations will come to the Lord and they too will become my people.”
Zechariah’s vision tells the people of Jerusalem to rejoice that many nations will come to join them. And in this city of many nationalities, God will come to live among them. In an earlier vision, Zechariah spoke about the walls of the city coming down to accommodate this new enlarged family of God.
Reconciliation is one of the themes of Advent. God’s coming to us in Jesus not only reconciles us to our loving God, but to one another in a new family. As barriers are pulled down and divided communities united, God’s people find new and vibrant ways to celebrate, live and love with generosity and hospitality.
That’s the vision. The Advent call to reconciliation, generosity and hospitality feels as immediate and urgent as ever. The divisions in our communities are made all the more stark by the current pandemic. We are only too aware of the divide between those who have every resource at their fingertips and those whose basic rights of shelter, safety and food seem like a luxury.
As an integrated school founded on Jesus’ prayer, “that they may be one”, it makes perfect sense for Lagan College to partner with Habitat Ireland as our chosen school charity. Reconciliation is at the heart of Habitat’s vision, breaking down barriers and building bridges between divided communities. In Habitat’s vision for community, people live side by side, supporting one another and doing what they can to allow the other to flourish, despite differences. In this community, newcomers are welcomed with celebration and rejoicing.
The challenges of building community in a divided and diverse society are not to be ignored, but we can always find hope in the knowledge that God lives among us. Let us all find ways to welcome God in one another this Christmas, with generosity and kindness.
Loving God, we thank you for this Advent season of promise and hope. Help us as we watch and wait for your coming. May we welcome you in our welcome of one another. May we be filled with joy as we celebrate community wherever we find it. May we find ways to support those whose lives are affected by poverty, and those who long for the shelter of home. Our God is living among us. Let us rejoice! Amen.