Waste Not Want Not – Advent Reflection 3
It is mid-December, and my garden is confused. There are still roses out, arum lilies which had long withered and gone underground have put forth leaf, primroses are in bloom, and the weather is turning colder with a sharp frost this morning.
During the summer the garden was equally confused. The trees started to brown and drop their leaves, giving the sense of an early autumn. Plants were shrivelling and dying. And the grass was a mere memory having turned to a brown dust.
This has been the hottest year on record. We are still officially in drought conditions, there is still technically a hosepipe ban. Crops have been left to rot in the heat. Meanwhile in other parts of the world South Africa is still enduring drought, there have been wildfires and a flood which covered a third of Pakistan.
This has been the year of COP-27, where governments have met to try and work out ways to stop catastrophic climate change, recognizing the damage that is being done though humanity’s over-consumption of the world’s resources. There are no easy answers. We want warm houses; carbon fuel is generally cheap – or at least it was until the Russian war with Ukraine. It is easier to use plastics rather than carry our own containers and go that bit further to buy our products from a zero-waste shop.
In Isaiah’s day pollution was not necessarily recognized, but the destruction of land was widely recognized as a tactic of war. The Assyrians and Babylonians would burn crops, fell orchards, destroy vineyards, use available timber to build war machines, and then cover the fields with salt, literally poisoning the soil.
Into this situation Isaiah speaks of the promised wellbeing of all creation. Deserts are formed when the land is robbed of vegetation, but Isaiah has a vision of the desert blooming with flowers, including the crocus (I wonder if Isaiah was thinking of the saffron crocus, the most valuable spice in the world?). Grassland becomes reeds and rushes, a habitat for abundant wildlife rather than a single crop, swamps act as carbon sinks, but also regulate floodwaters and provide further habitats for wildlife. And it is not just the environment that is blooming, Isaiah speaks of a highway, straight, on the flat, easy to travel on, and safe with no marauding lions and jackals.
We often think of Jesus coming just for us humans, that salvation is for humankind alone. Yet in John 3:16 we have those famous words: For God so loved the world that he gave his son. In the Greek it says ‘For God so loved the cosmos’, the same word as universe, the word we get cosmonauts from, the whole of creation. It puts a bigger picture on why Jesus came, not just for us, but the wellbeing of all creation, the whole earth.
In the Apocrypha, (a bit of the bible we rarely read) it says that God loves everything he made, otherwise he wouldn’t have made it! And in Genesis we are told that God saw all that he had made and it was good, and he blessed it.
As we continue in our journey towards Christmas, with all our present buying and extra treats, maybe we can think, how can we be God’s instruments of wellbeing for all of creation? Is there a way that through our actions we can help all of creation sing praise to God? Perhaps it just needs to be simple things, recycling more, buying goods without so much packaging, using less plastic, or even fossil fuels, or eating more seasonal foods rather than strawberries in December. After all, ‘The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, and all things were made for his glory’, not ours.
Talking of all things Christmassy – some interesting facts about our over consumption of the earth’s resources at Christmas:
- Each Christmas we produced 30% more waste than at any other time of year.
- We use 300,000 tonnes of card – only some of which is recycled
- 114,000 tonnes of plastic goes into landfill
- We use 227,000 miles of wrapping paper, most of which is not recyclable, that’s nearly 4 times round the earth!
- We eat 10 million turkeys, and use 4,500 tonnes of tin foil to cook them
- And finally, our Christmas food shop, contains 125,000 tonnes of plastic wrapping, most of which is not recyclable.
Perhaps we can look for ways to use less packaging, use recyclable products, and generally remember that if God loves the creation he made, then so should we.