Jannine Ebenso, Head of Quality Assurance.
For Christians, advent is when we turn, even more, toward Jesus. We rejoice in the Saviour who has come, and we long for the Saviour who comes still.
The Leprosy Mission staff all over the world will be celebrating advent and Christmas itself in many different ways, as every culture celebrates the birth of Christ in different ways. Traditionally, in the United Kingdom where I live, we light (red) candles on each of the four Sundays running up to Christmas and then a fifth (white) candle on Christmas day itself. Each of the candles represents a different theme to meditate on.
Advent 1 – Hope: We put our hope in the one to come, the promised one who comes from God to bring good news of salvation. We hope in the one who will lead us to walk in the light of the LORD. We hope he will not let us live in dark valleys, but on the high mountain of God. On this day, we remember to hopefully look for the coming of Christ.
Advent 2 – Peace: God has a peaceful dream for the world, and we dream it too. We dream of a peaceful world full of wolves and leopards and lions eating and sleeping and dancing with lambs, kids, and calves. We dream of a peaceful world where nations come together, where war is a memory, and we eat at one table. On this day, we remember the Lord of All who brings peace surpassing all understanding.
Advent 3 – Joy: In Advent, we are in a time of waiting. Like the Israelites who wandered through the Wilderness, waiting to come into the Promised Land, we wait for the coming of the Joy of Ages. We wait for the day where we can join our voices with the angels to sing “Joy to the World, the Lord is come!” We wait for the day when everlasting joy will be on each of us. On this day, we remember the Spirit who breathes joy into our lives.
Advent 4 – Love: Scripture tells us “There is no fear in love, for perfect love casts out fear.” (1 John 4:18). God created this world in love and this world will end in the love of God. God’s love pervades all aspects of this life. From birth to death, pain to delight, strangers to lovers, God’s love is there.
Christmas Day – Light: With the birth of Christ, salvation has drawn near. The God who ordered the chaos of the universe has come down into the chaos of our world. The Word which was with God at the beginning came down and lived with us. While we were yet living in the valley of the shadow of death, the light of new life burst forth.
Hope - Peace - Joy - Love - Light: As I reflect on these five words for my own spiritual life, I reflect on them for people affected by leprosy:
Hope: Our hope (vision) as The Leprosy Mission is to see Leprosy Defeated. What does this look like? Well, we have set a target to see no new cases by the year 2035. This is 18 years away, but due to the many things that we still do not know about leprosy and how it is transmitted, it is a challenging vision. However, we believe that working together with the various parts of The Leprosy Mission Fellowship and our partners around the world, we will be able to stop transmission and see leprosy defeated.
The Leprosy Mission also aims to see Lives Transformed
. Not just individual lives, but whole communities. Our prayer is that all the communities where we work will experience Shalom
- the peace from God that surpasses all understanding. (Philippians 4:7)
There is joy when we are able to tell a person affected by leprosy that we have a cure for their disease. There is joy when we are able to tell someone they are cured. There is joy when families who had been separated by leprosy are reunited; when people are able to reach their potential through our livelihood and education programmes; when people who have been denied their rights are able to speak up, demand for and receive those rights.
My work with The Leprosy Mission tells me that every life matters
, whether that life is lived in relative prosperity in the United Kingdom or whether it is lived in a very poor community in Africa or Asia, disadvantaged by the barriers that society raises for those who are affected by leprosy, live with disabilities or are of a different tribe, religion or caste.
We love because he first loved us.
- 1 John 4:19
Healing, restoring and empowering the lives of people affected by leprosy means more than just a cure for the leprosy bacillus. It means addressing the underlying causes and working to prevent disability and to restore dignity and wholeness.
Following Jesus Christ, The Leprosy Mission strives to break the chains of leprosy, empowering people to attain healing, dignity and life in all its fullness. In doing so, we want the light of Christ to shine in all communities and nations.
In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.
- John 1:4
Jannine Ebenso is Head of Quality Assurance at The Leprosy Mission International. She joined the Mission in 1991, living and working as a physiotherapist in Nigeria for 16 years before returning to the UK in 2008. In addition to her Physiotherapy qualifications, Jannine holds a Post-Graduate Certificate in Biblical and Cross-cultural Studies and a Master of Arts in Disability Studies. She tweets as @JannineTLM