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Thursday, November 30, 2006

Hope in Advent

The theme of Advent as a whole is that somehow God is coming, God
will save, and that is a source of hope.

It's not a message that works as a practical analysis in our fairly
secular religious context. Consider how we see the pain of the world
- or choose not to see it. We easily despair because governments and
institutions; people aren't fixing it. We ourselves don't even want
to think about prisons, hungry persons, or people with no prospects
because there is so little that any one of us can do, it seems. This
is despair. More gently, the response someone like me proposes,
which is that we can act within our "sphere of influence", is a make-
do posture. It is reasonable but it can limit our effectiveness by
limiting our dreaming. Inaction becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy,
if you will. That is, “I can't help, no single person like me can, so
I don't try and, see, I didn't help, just like I predicted.”

What answer do we have? Well, in Advent, we say that God is coming
and God is going to save. If that is going to happen, then the cause
is not lost! We can look forward to that day with happy
expectation. At least, we who are really powerless can look forward
to this day of saving. Consider a Haitian teenager who is not gifted
with talent, charm, unusual intelligence, looks, or the ability to
throw a baseball 95 miles per hour. That person would really look
forward to the possibilities brought by a saving God, a Christ. Then
what of the others of us who do have gifts of one sort or another,
who do have expectations, who are doing well? For us, the Advent
message is that our efforts to liberate, to feed, to get to know, to
empower, to clothe, and to heal; even our meager efforts will not be
ineffective. We can throw off despair because we expect a God who
works with people, who sees people as the way things get done; a God
who is a creator, yes, but a co-creator who expects to find us busy
doing the right things. We expect a God who, in our story, comes as
a needy person. Don’t you see? The least of us could bring a baby
something to help keep warm, some added bit of protection, some
little gift. The least of us could play our drum.

That's what we mean by hope in Advent.