Address to the Scottish Parliament by the Rev Teri C Peterson, of St John’s Church, Gourock
Presiding Officer and members of the Scottish Parliament, I thank you for the opportunity to address you today, especially as an immigrant who made Scotland my home three and a half years ago because I value so much the Scottish ethos of welcome and hospitality, fairness, looking out for each other, and being humble about how brilliant you are. Thank you for welcoming me and for making me feel at home here.
I came to serve as a minister in the Church of Scotland, and like many Christians, I am currently preparing for the season of Advent, which begins this Sunday. Advent is the four weeks leading up to Christmas, and is a season of preparation and waiting, in contrast with the culture of instant gratification. During Advent, we get ourselves ready for the coming of Jesus, who is love in the flesh, living among us in the world.
In a normal year, it is easy to be overwhelmed by preparations for the festive season and its trappings of parties and gifts. This year, when things are far from normal, it is easy to be overwhelmed by the sense of loss and anxiety about how different it will be—but perhaps that gives us a chance to reclaim the meaning of Advent and Christmas, which are a celebration of love that changes the world.
Several years ago, I asked one of my good friends, who is a rabbi, what it means to her and her fellow Jews to be waiting for the Messiah. She said, “To say we are waiting for the Messiah is to say that the world is not yet as it should be, and we still have work to do.” I think that that is also at the heart of Advent—and how much more than usual do we feel that this year? The world is not as it should be, and we have work to do.
Jesus was born more than 2,000 years ago already, and now we who celebrate Christmas use Advent to wait for that same world-changing love to be born in us. We hear the call of the prophets—ancient and contemporary—to prepare the way by valuing the voices of those who have been marginalised, putting the needs of others ahead of our comforts, welcoming the stranger, caring for the earth, and ensuring that all have a place to call home. May our Advent preparation bring a blessing for all.