As you approach the Castle of Mey on the north coast, you see a fairly typical 16th century Scottish castle, built on land originally belonging to the Bishop of Caithness. To the right of the front door of the main building is another door way through which you can see, as in a picture frame, the Pentland Firth, south of the Orkney Islands, scene of the most turbulent tidal races in the world. At ebb tide at the Merry Men of Mey, a tidal race just to the north of the picture, the water can pour out of the North Sea into the North Atlantic at the rate of some 30 kilometres an hour. Then across the water at Scapa Flow is the location of the scuttling of 74 ships of the German Navy’s High Seas fleet at the end of the First World War. The idyllic calm and serenity of a particular day last year when the photograph was taken, belies both the agitation and turmoil of the sea when the weather is perverse but also the particular history of the first world war, with its tragic and senseless loss of life. A time indeed when life itself seemed to have lost any meaning.
The season of Advent, which we have just begun, essentially focuses on Hope, our hope for the coming of God’s kingdom, and God’s hope for the redemption of humankind.
Hope was the last thing in the myth of Pandora’s box, the hope that all the evil in the world will ultimately be overcome. And it is true that desperately we look for the first shoots of a promise for better times, and the good news at least is that we have been made with a faculty to believe that hope can be grounded in reality. Something to work for. This has been amply proved this taxing year by the hope for a vaccine, by our trust in the scientists who know what they are doing and their confidence that they are on the right track. Our part, of course, is to trust them even when some facets of social media seems dead set in persuading us not to do so.
Similarly the Advent Hope requires of us to trust in the message of Jesus Christ, to believe in the power of his resurrection and the confidence in ourselves to deliver on it.