Recently, I’ve been struggling with how my work here in Wolverhampton seems to make no difference to large-scale issues such as poverty and discrimination. I wonder if my time spent this year is changing this city. I doubt if I, myself, am learning or changing enough to bring back something that will benefit the disadvantaged Americans I want to work with in the future. Seeking hope this Christmas season, I question what I can give to Wolverhampton.
Our world is laden with loss, hatred and violence. These influences feel so powerful that nothing can overcome it. What force is mightier than automatic weapons that steal countless lives in the matter of seconds? What speech is more influential than those dividing words of “America first” or the public sharing of overt Islamophobia? What action conveys more indifference than millions upon millions of us walking past a homeless, poor, or troubled person as if they do not exist?
In the face of all this global suffering, in the shadow of conflict among world leaders, within each of our biased hearts, a tiny and humble baby is born. This baby has no power: he can’t even talk. This baby has no social influence, for his mom could not even find him a normal place to live the first hours of his life. This baby means nothing to the vast majority of the world—not yet. Despite Jesus’ insignificance, he tip toes into the world and grows. He grows into an outspoken advocate of justice. He grows into a fierce companion of the lowest classes in society. And his passionate message of love and justice echoes across the world. His powerful message of love and justice has out-lived every ruler of every country this planet has seen. And Jesus’s present message of love and justice is here. Yes, despite pervading turmoil and hate, Jesus gives new life.
This month, Jesus worked through Lea Road URC. We inducted a black woman and a lesbian as members of our church, who both had past experiences of rejection by other churches. We welcomed a woman with financial and mental health obstacles onto a board of neighborhood leaders associated with the church. We invited everyone—regardless of religious belief or non-belief— to a community carol service which included break dancing and moments of disarray as people came in and out. I have witnessed Jesus acting in the lives of the kids I work with. In the calming of anger as a kid chooses to give the victim of her own bullying a flower. In the Roma brothers who actively discourage fighting among their peers.
Daily, I am a witness of the renewed love Jesus brings into our world. Daily, I am reminded of hope. In a church with dwindling numbers, there is hope. In a city whose glory days of coal mining are long gone, there is hope. In a country troubled by terrorism and manipulated by prejudice, there is hope. In a world where fear rules the day and hateful mockery seems to have a stronger force than love, Jesus continues to arrive.
So after a month of way too much alone time in the cramped church office, and after dark times crippling under the thought of my own insignificance and lack of impact, I realize the strength in humility. Jesus began in tiny ways, and so can I. One does not need a political position to make a change. One does not need to donate thousands to recognize the humanity of a stranger. Presence interrupts the mundane. A listening ear uplifts the downtrodden.
Whether Jesus is tiptoeing or roaring, I encourage you to discover how Jesus places hope in your life. What are those moments of joy or triumph that defy the norms of negative or threatening ideas? I urge you to become that hope for others—to share your light in the dim tunnels so many feel forced to travel. For large-scale distress begins with small communities yet a global call for justice began with an innocent baby.
All we have is the present moment. Full engagement with all people in our communities and investment in the whole brings a presence that can defy oppression. That is a power even the most insignificant randos can wield.
Allison Trezona serves with the United Reformed Church, United Kingdom. Her appointment is made possible by your gifts to Disciples Mission Fund, Our Church’s Wider Mission, WOC, OGHS, and your special gifts.