I am loving Tony Benn's Letters to My Grandchildren. He writes about things that matter with a disarming simplicity. And in advent it's good to be reminded of the things that really matter.
Benn says: 'Christianity provided me with a set of moral values and a series of comforting rituals.' (p34). While he has in mind hatching, matching and dispatching, it's clear from other places that those rituals include the seasons of the church, times when we reflect on aspects of our lives in relation to God.
He goes on, 'Christianity helped me answer some of the mysteries of life and death and provided me with the reassurance that there was someone who loved me despite my faults.' (p34).
As we await the birth of Jesus, it's good to reflect on the fact that God loves us despite our many faults; indeed that he sent his Son into the world to redeem us from those faults and to give us the power to overcome them and rise above them through his teaching and Spirit.
'If someone I love is in danger, I will naturally pray for them,' he says, 'in the hope and belief that it will be of some help in their trials.' (p35)
Benn has never slotted comfortably into institutional religion - he doesn't really do institutions of any kind, as the some in the Labour Party would no doubt happily tell you! But he does offer this wonderful insight into Jesus, the teacher, the one to follow, while being sceptical about those in authority in the church!
'Religious and political leaders shine a torch on the path they wish us to follow but teachers explode fireworks into the sky so that for a moment we can see the whole landscape, learn where we have come from, where we are and the paths ahead.' (p36-37)
That's a great description of what we are waiting for. As Jesus arrives, there is an explosion of fireworks, a lighting up of the landscape of our lives. We see ourselves as we are and as we could be. And we see Jesus as the one who has come to make the difference, come to lead us into God's future by showing us its landscape and the paths that we must travel together to get there.