This Sunday we light the first advent candle of the season, the candle of hope.
As we commemorate World Aids Day I feel both heartache and hope in equal measure. Heartache for those who have already gone, those bright shining lights that touched my life in so many profound ways and are with us no more; and for a world that thirty years on still often adds prejudice and rejection to the weight already carried by those touched by HIV. Yet I also feel hope. Hope that we may yet actually find a cure that is more than a prophylactic or control, a cure that is cheap enough that we can eradicate HIV in the same way we have Smallpox. For many the virus can be controlled, and that’s great, but the war is not over and battles are still being fought on many fronts.
Advent reminds us that even when the dark is overwhelming that there is hope. Sometimes a dim spark, sometimes a fire, it is there in the darkness with us. The moments in my life when I have admitted to God and to myself that my own light is not enough I have found that Jesus is the light I need.
There is a verse in ‘O little Town of Bethlehem’ that springs to mind.
How silently, how silently,
The wondrous Gift is giv’n!
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings found in heaven.
No ear may hear His coming,
But in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive Him still,
The dear Christ enters in.
I believe that sin is simply the darkness of despair, and Jesus is the light that God gives to us. It is more than hope, (although that’s often the way it starts), it is the Love of God.
Advent is about expectation, that God’s love is going to enter the world and bring salvation. It may start with a little hope, but in the beginning that’s all that’s needed. What is now a spark becomes a guiding star; What is now just hope, comes true.
The Maryknoll AIDS Task Force Prayer
God of all compassion, comfort people who live with HIV. Spread over us all your quilt of mercy, love and peace.
Open our eyes to your presence reflected in their faces. Open our ears to your truth echoing in their hearts.
Give us the strength to weep with the grieving, to journey with the lonely, to be with the depressed.
May our love mirror your love for those who live in fear, who live under stress and who suffer rejection.
Loving God grant rest to those who have died and hope to all who live with HIV.
God of life, help us to find the cure now and help us to build a world in which no one dies alone and where everyone lives accepted, wanted, and loved.
Adapted from the Maryknoll sisters of the San Salvador Diocesan HIV/AIDS program and the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance