An Advent journey

Majid, Dana and their daughters

During Advent Catherine Gorman from our Theology team remembers Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem and reflects on the journeys that thousands of people still face today.

As we count down to Christmas we can get caught up in all the merriment and festive preparations. But what is this Advent season really about?

Use our Advent calendar throughout the season for daily prayer and reflection

Advent is the time when we wait in joyful hope for the coming of Christ, now and at the end of time. We are reminded that Jesus is the Emmanuel – God with us. God is with every person, in every situation. No one is beyond the reach of God’s love.

Throughout all the festive hustle and bustle, I try to hold on to the idea that this is what we are really journeying towards – God’s love.

Journey to Bethlehem

I reflect on the story of Mary and Joseph travelling to Bethlehem. My heart goes out to Mary who must have been so exhausted travelling while pregnant.

I think of when I was expecting my own children. Walking to the post box at the end of the road felt like a mammoth effort, let alone a long and uncomfortable journey to somewhere new.

And I remember that around the world today millions of our sisters and brothers face journeys similar to that of Mary and Joseph. They leave their home not because of a census but because of war, natural disaster, poverty or persecution.

Majid, his wife Dana and their young daughters fled their home in Syria because of the conflict. It was a difficult journey, as Dana explains:

“Death would have been more merciful. We suffered a lot.

“We had to walk a day and a half in the desert. No food or drink. We slept on the sand. I covered the children with some clothes. We were not afraid of animals, reptiles or insects. We only feared that a missile would land on our heads. There were all kinds of weapons falling around us.”

Dana, Majid and their daughters now live in a rented room, an old shop, in another part of Syria. Although it is small and crowded, it is safe.

Dana and one of her daughters in their rented home in Syria.

Thanks to your support, we are working through the Catholic Church in Syria to assist people like Majid and Dana. They have been given cash towards their rent, which has made a huge difference, as they were struggling to cover the cost of food and firewood.

Born far from home

At the end of their journey, Mary and Joseph have to shelter with the animals because there is no room for them anywhere else. And so, as we will celebrate in a few short weeks, Christ is born in a stable and laid in a manger.

Thousands of children around the world will start their lives just as Jesus did. Born in difficult circumstances, far from their parents’ home.

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Rajida is just one of hundreds of thousands of refugees who are estimated to have fled into Bangladesh from neighbouring Myanmar. She made the journey to the Bangladeshi border on foot while heavily pregnant.

Rajida’s daughter was born in Bangladesh, under a plastic sheet in the middle of a rice paddy. “When I saw that she was healthy, I was so happy. I gave thanks to God,” Rajida told us.

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“What would I do?”

And so this Advent, I think about the stories of these mothers: Our Lady, Dana and Rajida and the hardships that they faced, the journeys that they undertook.

I try to imagine the desperation and fear that means that a journey like Dana’s and Rajida’s is the only choice. As I tuck my children snugly into bed, I look at them and ask myself “what would I do if you were in danger?”

This Advent I am trying to make space and time to listen to what God is asking of me and to remember that God is with us all, even in the most difficult of times. I will hold all those who are in need, especially those who face perilous journeys, and who lack shelter, in my prayers. And I will do my best to reach out in love to these brothers and sisters of mine.

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