Greetings to you all as we reach this season of Advent – a time of thoughtful and prayerful waiting for the Saviour of the Nations to come. It is observed in so many different ways – calendars with doors which are opened each day until Christmas with some small picture or object behind it, in churches with a circular wreath with local greenery and four candles of different colours each representing the biblical people who represent the season for us or the big themes of the season, Peace, Joy, Hope, Waiting – or for others Death, Judgement, Heaven and Hell.
But as we as Australian Christians entering the season of Advent this year do so at a time when there is much to unsettle and challenge us. The bushfires and catastrophic heatwave conditions in Queensland and the prospect of new coal mining endeavours focus our minds particularly on the need for urgent action on climate change, the need to invest in renewal energy. Some of you have been active in the various campaigns and protests in your part of the country – I myself played a small part in helping the ARRCC mount a candidates forum in our (no longer marginal) electorate of Bentleigh in suburban Melbourne. Peter Catt, from Brisbane wrote in the Fairfax press today, “Now, a multi-faith campaign to stop new coal mining, run by the Australian Religious Response to Climate Change (ARRCC) is gathering momentum. It includes Indigenous, Buddhist, Islamic, Jewish and Christian leaders from all around Australia. They are speaking with one voice about taking urgent, emergency action on climate change. This is much more than a political or even a scientific issue. It is a profoundly moral one. ... The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says global coal use must drop by at least 59 per cent in the next 12 years if we are to avoid catastrophe.”
We have seen extraordinary scenes of schoolchildren across the country making their political voices heard about the inaction of our government in respect to climate change. They are speaking truth to power; and the politicians do not like it.
From Poland at the 24th session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, or COP24, we hear the voices of David Attenborough and others that the time for action on climate change is now. There is no more urgent a matter that confronts our world today as that of action on climate change. Over the next week or so in Katowice, countries will be aiming to reach rare consensus on a "rulebook" of guidelines to turn the Paris agreement into a workable document.
In Victoria we have seen a sizeable tide of public opinion being voiced through the ballot box that Australians are no longer going to tolerate the politics of hate and fearmongering.
The season of Advent reminds us of the need to repent, to think again, and bear fruit that befits repentance. It is also a time of hope. There is much to look forward to next year – plans are well underway by various groups throughout Australia and New Zealand for the visit John Bell of the Iona Community in May.
John will be visiting Western Australia, South Australia, Victoria, Queensland and NSW where he will address a Fair Trade conference at the beginning of June in the Blue Mountains. All of these will be well publicised in our own networks and in the religious press in the new year. We then have our own Wellspring Gathering in Brisbane at the beginning of August for which the Queensland Gathering working group is planning a varied and interesting programme.
Meanwhile I wish you all a blessed and peaceful Advent and Nativity season wherever you are; I thank you all for your contribution to Wellspring over the past year, and look forward to catching up with many of you next year.