A few evenings ago I took a break from my busy Advent schedule and switched on the television. My intention was to find a film or documentary in-keeping with the season of Advent and Christmas. Fat chance! What I found myself watching for the first time and steadily being drawn into, was a film entitled ‘The Deer Hunter’ starring Robert De Niro. For those of you who have never seen the film, it is a harrowing and very effective story of how a group of friends in America, some of whom become soldiers; others who remain civilians, cope with the Vietnam War and its aftermath.

At this point you may be thinking, this is not a particularly Christmassy subject, but please bear with me. When the film finished I retired to bed with a general feeling of melancholy not, to mention disturbing images of soldiers forced to gamble with their lives at Russian roulette.

For this reason getting to sleep was difficult. So I began to praise God in what I can only describe as a litany of gratitude for the Incarnation and the Parousia (the second coming of Christ). It was direct, simple, childlike (and done very quietly because I didn’t want to wake Fr Mark from his slumber). It was also very effective – I went off fairly quickly into a peaceful sleep.

The point I am trying to make is this: the harsh realities of life are all around us – on the streets, in the news and as entertainment on our screens, and it’s difficult to avoid them altogether. Quite often I come across people of faith who have allowed the atrocities of this world to permeate their lives to such an extent that they are controlled by them. They live in the grip of fear and disillusionment. Alongside this, the tackiness, greed and commercialism that rears its ugly head at this time of year, can add to our disenchantment.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. What we can do as a counter balance is immerse ourselves in the love of God and His message of hope and peace. see the Advent and Christmas seasons as God given opportunities in enabling us to do this if only we would allow them space and time in our lives.

Granted, we will never be able to entirely banish the worldly. To separate the good from the bad, the just from the unjust, the peaceful from the disturbing and the sacred from the profane, even if we adopted a completely hermitical existence, this would be impossible.

But, as I said before, by engrossing ourselves in the love of God and the power of the Incarnation at every available opportunity we can lift ourselves above the prevailing culture of mediocrity and menace to the reality of the Saviour’s peace and joy.