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Sunday, 29 November 2009

Advent: Hope for the long haul

Hope is on of the key themes of Advent, a season that makes little sense to many in a consumer oriented post Christendom culture.

Hope is not a wishful emotion that things will get better. Hope requires the discipline of facing reality over the long haul and shaping our lives in ways that are appropriate to sustain that hope. The discipline for example of Dietrich Bonhoeffer committing himself to building community, encouraging those who sought to enter into marriage and build families in the midst of war while committing himself to action to overthrow the Nazi Regime, or the discipline of a Dorothy Day whose discipleship was marked by "a long obedience" of building community, practising hospitality and resisting violence.

Robert Coles, a child psychiatrist and no mean theologian in his own way, who wrote books on both Bonhoeffer and Day, comments on the discipline required for a lived out hope that is focused on the life of Jesus:
Faith has to do with time, with moral anticipation. We are the creatures who look forward, struggle with time's constraints and possibilities. We are the creatures who wonder: what next, and why, and what to do, and whither—again, our time-bound selves demonstrating moral inquiry.

The psalmist pleads for God's instruction. The prophet foresees days of righteous glory, a welcome change indeed from the iniquity he has noticed so scrupulously and condemned with all his might and considerable eloquence. The disciple recalls Jesus himself telling of the future—its promise, but its mystery, too; and the disciple links the future to the present, as do the Old Testament teachers, who know that to wait is to watch—oneself as well as the skies for their signs. Finally, the itinerant early convert yearns for that great, blessed day, a reunion with God, and as his predecessors did, connects that future with the continuing present of our collective lives: how shall we live if we are to meet God and his judgment?

...what really matters is not the beauty and cogency of a particular moment (a poem, for instance, a sermon, yet another book...) but the way we bear ourselves over the long haul of things.

Christianity is the story of simple people following in their naked blindness an itinerant rabbi, scorned and soon enough killed. Christianity offers rural homilies and peasant parables, and not especially elegant riddles. Christianity offers hope all right, but lots of fear and worry, and certainly no solace for the high and mighty. Christianity offers the birth of a child—God become human; the extended test of time which a given life, his life, offered people long ago.

Sojourners Advent resources

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