During Advent, WCC general secretary celebrates love, hope
16 December 2015
In a meditation at the Saint Egidio evening prayer in the church of Santa Maria in Trastevere, Rome on 14 December, World Council of Churches general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit celebrated love and hope this Advent season, particularly in the context of the plight of thousands of refugees and varied reactions to the climate talks in Paris.
The meditation was offered during Tveit’s visit to Rome, Italy. He read from 1 John 4:7-12, which begins: “Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.”
He commended the St Egidio movement for showing that the love of God can be transformed into practical initiatives that can support those who, in dramatic ways, live with the reality of humanity today, including the reality of human failures and sin.
“Today I have had the opportunity to see how you affirm the dignity of those who are refugees or migrants living here in Rome,” he said.
Celebrating what the world needs now
During Advent, we celebrate the coming of the Son of God as a human being among us, Tveit reflected. “It is to celebrate what the world needs now, which is the same as before: love,” he said. “In the text from the first letter of John, we are given two reasons why Jesus Christ has come, in two consecutive verses: to address human sin by giving his life as an atonement for sin. And also, to give, to transform life.”
The first reason echoes a very strong motif in the Christian tradition: Jesus Christ has come to save us from our sins, Tveit pointed out. “There is no reason to believe there is any less need to emphasize this at Christmas 2015,” he said. “The sins of humanity are as real as ever before, and we know all too well that so many people suffer as the result of human sins and evil every day.”
Jesus Christ has come to transform our lives so that we can live the life God has created us to live — to live the life of love, of using our potential for transformation toward the common good.
During Advent Tveit is emphasizing hope. “There is a right to hope, a right to which all people are entitled, particularly the most vulnerable,” he said. “We as human beings can pledge ourselves by our acts towards transformation. We may see that there are even signs of hope for transformation towards a decarbonized world.”
“Last week I addressed the COP 21 climate talks in Paris on behalf of faith-based organizations,” Tveit recalled. “For two minutes, at the end of the so called high-level dialogue, I was asked to give a last input before the final round of negotiations. What could be said to the negotiators out of the context of faith? There were many reasons to emphasize the human failures, the sin, that has led to the situation in which we find ourselves, facing climate changes and unbearable injustices the people who suffer the most. This is definitely true, and nobody denied it in the debates in Paris.”
But instead of dwelling on sin, Tveit said, "I decided to speak about hope, hope, and only hope. I decided to emphasize the other dimension of Advent." He decided to stress "the potential of human beings to do what is right, to do that which improves the lives and perspectives of others."
Paris climate agreement hailed by ecumenical leaders (WCC press release of 14 December)
COP21: how climate change affects access to our daily bread (WCC press release of 9 December)