Advent Cheer Leaders

As I start to craft my Christmas newsletter I read Giles' Fraser's comment in a newspaper that atheists make bad humanists. They have a hard job to mine uniquely human values from a remote aeon or an ancestor ape. God being born as a human being generates a much more generous humanism. So I put that into my annual Christmas round robin!

I receive a card from the Knights of the Blue Pilgrims, whose conference I once facilitated. They each take a special pilgrim name for themselves. So my card was signed by Aflame, Balm, Blessing, Courage, Delight, Enterprise, Goodwill, Peace-giver, Undaunted, Victor, Watchman ... you name it! We need pilgrims like these.

Following Britain's new import from USA of Black Friday (shops bribe customers to start their Christmas spending spree with an opening big discount day) the mainland descends into its mad Christmas frenzy and pilgrims to this thin place dwindle. Instead of two hundred visitors' candles lit, yesterday there was one. 'One sane person, hanging on in there...' Is this the only sane place left?

Gales lash us, but thrice daily we pray the divine hours in the unheated church and return to homes to keep the Advent Watch. My watch is aided by the writings of John Butler, a former farmer of Russian stock who recently gave me copies of his poems.

From faithful practice, faith will grow '

We reap exactly as we sow.

Beware quick fixes - work of prayer

Is long and slow, so layer by layer,

Abandon self-conceited pride

To free the child of God inside.

With heart and mind wide open, prayer

Past words, and thought and feeling - stay

Opened more and more - until

Heavenly grace pours down to fill

Capacities to bursting and -

For ever more your faith expand.

When I was in Rome they were preparing for this. Now, for the first time in history the leaders of the Christian Catholic, Anglican and Orthodox, as well as Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish and Muslim faiths, jointly commit to one common endeavour against slavery. On 2 December 2014, the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery, they gathered in Rome to sign a common statement. The Global Freedom Network(GFN) brought together faith leaders forming a historic initiative to eradicate modern slavery by 2020 throughout our world and for all time. They signed the Joint Declaration of Religious Leaders against Modern Slavery to underline that modern slavery, in terms of human trafficking, forced labour and prostitution, organ trafficking, and any relationship that fails to respect the fundamental conviction that all people are equal and have the same freedom and dignity, is a crime against humanity, and must be recognised as such by everyone and by all nations.

This brings us back to where this blog began - the source of the truest human values - God in and with us. The image of the living God cannot be subject to the most aberrant trafficking, says Pope Francis.

Posted at 03:54am on 8th December 2014
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