I have a confession to make. I’ve been in a dark place this last month.
My anxiety level has been rising as I’ve immersed myself in news about the world, news that doesn’t seem to be getting any better, news that highlights just how dark humanity is to one another. Where little girls aren’t necessarily safe with their fathers and tears seem to flow more freely than love and kindness. Where women political leaders are called by every venomous description that can be hurled at them and they have to have security to protect them from individuals who threaten death. Where swastikas are spray painted on churches and people feel free in public to tell others of different faiths to return home where they supposedly belong.
If you’re like me and you find yourself immersed in the online conversation you have noticed that it continues to get more vile and the divide grows deeper as lines are drawn over domestic policy. We begin to wonder if we are really any better off with this internet that was to unite us than we were before.
But even as the temptation is to blame the online conversation, the question arises as to whether the online conversation is any different from coffee rows throughout Saskatchewan where people gather to complain bitterly and gossip about just who is to blame for the latest juicy tidbit. Is it really any different from coffee shops where people whisper and gossip about those neighbours who look different, act differently and worship differently from them? Is it really any different from those times in history where whole groups were blamed for the ills of human society?
Or has it just given a voice to deeply held fears being manifested in hate and blame? In the face of uncertainty ad changing times, is it just easier to blame others making other groups of people other than those who we call our own to blame for the mess humanity finds itself in?
I have more questions than answers these days and this past month any illusion that I held about humanity’s glories were shattered as again and again we’ve been witness to our hell bent intent on the destruction of ourselves and others. Despair has threatened to settle into my heart and my soul, making me wonder if all that I’m called to do is for naught.
Then through that darkness, that anxiety, that despair these words of Isaiah pierced this week as I prepared for service:
In days to come the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised above the hills; all the nations shall stream to it. Many peoples shall come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
These words pierce through all of the hate, all of the evil that we visit on each other and they cast before us another way, the way of God, the dream of God for our humanity, for our world, for us and I have to say that I’m filled with hope.
They are the words of a prophet and as Eric Baretto says, “Perhaps the most important role of the prophet is rousing us from our stupor. When we get tired, when we are weary of resisting, when we are told over and over again that this is how things are going to be, the prophet’s call is clear. God has something better for us. Something liberating. Something just. Something transformative.”
And it reminds me to hope.
Hope not in the illusions of humanity’s ability to bring about that justice but for God’s ability to work through our destruction and raise us all to new life. It reminds me to hope for the coming of Christ into the world in which we really live, not the one in which we wish to see. It reminds me to hope for a future that makes manifest this dream of God even in the face of our destruction.
That’s the tension and the gift of Advent for us as we move towards preparing for Christ’s arrival, in our world, now and in the future. Where we find ourselves immersed in the tension of the reality of the darkness and the hope of Christ’s coming in the future.
It’s why Advent is such an important part of the church year. Advent is an opportunity to live with the reality of our own restlessness in order to prepare us for the amazing gift of love that is the Christmas story.
Advent allows us to live within the stark reality in order to hear the message of hope and new life that can be found in God’s dream for us and God’s gift for our whole world.
So as we face squarely the reality of the bleakness of our violence and our destruction, let us also face squarely the hope of the Lord, that in days to come God will bring about a new thing. That in days to come, our violence will be no more. That in days to come in the kingdom of God, our weapons of war will become implements of peace.
Advent reminds us of this truth and this hope, that in the face of all the terror, we can say “Come, let us walk in the light of the Lord!” because we know that God’s dream will be our future hope and future reality. Thanks be to God.