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.
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, accepting 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.
Rev. Simon Hansford, Moderator, Uniting Church Synod of NSW and ACT