By: Todd Deatherage
As 2016 moves to its end, many wish it had all been just an unpleasant dream. Our experiences this year, as in most, teach us that things are not right in the world, not as they should be.
An ugly American election season has exposed deep fault lines of ethnicity, geography, belief and experience. The deep-rooted racism that has vexed us since our founding has boldly announced that it never went away but had only been quietly feeding in dark corners of the internet and in human hearts, and, thus nourished, was feeling sufficiently strengthened to boldly step more fully from the shadows.
We have been exposed as a divided nation, one in which our opponents are seen as enemies. We are angry at the failure of our institutions and leaders, suspicious of each other, fearful, and we have self-segregated into real and virtual communities of the like-minded making it easy to dismiss or ignore those with whom we disagree, and, more corrosively, to dehumanize those who are different from us. When we do encounter those on the “other side” we either retreat into silence or shout our strong opinions across the divide, listening to divergent views just closely enough to formulate our most effective rebuttal. And then we stand in critical amazement when our politicians in Washington mirror this behavior.
Our appetite for the angry voices of talk radio and the vapid ones of reality television, our rampant individualism, our failure to recognize the image of God in the faces of those fleeing poverty, war and persecution, and our cavalier willingness to cast aside ancient boundary stones, also each make their contribution to our deep divide.
If we don’t feel quite at home in this mess, if we find ourselves longing for a world less violent and capricious, less noisy and chaotic, a world more fair and just, more decent and kind, more honest and true, then Advent is a season just for us. It was into a dark and brutal world that Jesus came, and into a dark and brutal one we need him to come now.
O come, Desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind;
O bid our sad divisions cease,
And be yourself our Prince of Peace
Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel
Advent reminds us that the God who made us is with us. And, as the ancient Hebrew prophet Isaiah foretold, his name is called Emmanuel.
To we who are afraid, God is with us.
To we who are displaced by war and violence, God is with us.
To we who are seeking a new home in a strange land, God is with us.
To we who are trapped in bitter conflicts that defy resolution, God is with us.
To we who feel our voices are never heard, God is with us.
To we who seek justice, God is with us.
To we who fear for all our children will inherit, who bemoan the mess we’ve made of things, God is with us.
To we who are sick, whose bodies fail, God is with us.
To we who weep, and we who suffer, God is with us.
To we who are heavy with the hatred and indifference of our modern world, God is with us.
God has not abandoned us to ourselves. He has not left us alone with no way to deal with the consequences of our worship of the idols of our day—money, power, sex, entertainment, technology, material goods, information and more.
The first Advent was the coming of God in human form, and through his death and resurrection, a revolution was started. The grand project to make all things new is begun. Yes, we remain estranged, “we mourn in exile here, until the Son of God appears,” but we are not alone. And the God who is with us invites all of humankind to follow him, to join him in the work he is doing here and now to advance his kingdom of justice and peace, to restore the shalom of creation, and more, to make all things new.