I don’t think I have much to add to the world of “leftist Advent reflections,” but I love this season, so I wanted to say something about it. My favorite seasons are Advent and Lent. This probably says something perverse about my character. But I think what appeals to me about them are that they are seasons of longing and lament, and that, to me, characterizes the world in which we live. The Kingdom of God is not yet. The Kingdoms of the Enemy still reign, and we live in a world of promise. Promise that this world will be overturned. Promise that our social arrangements will be flipped upside down. Promise that we will be restored to God and each other. But while this promise suffuses our present, it is still not yet.
In Advent, we expect the coming of a Savior. We expect to be made whole, both our individual and communal selves. Yet, like Mary, who had to wait 9 months for the fulfillment of God’s promise to her, God asks that we say yes. Yes to having our world destroyed, yes to being thrown out of the world in which we can be oh so comfortable, a yes predicated on nothing but a promise: it will be better for you, despite all appearances to the contrary. Mary waited 9 months to have her child, and 33 years later, the Theotokos wept as her son was tortured to death in front of her eyes. Yes to suffering on the road to healing. Yes to the pain of our wounds being bound up.
Feuerbach was right when he declared Christianity to be a religion of suffering, but he missed a crucial point: it’s a religion of suffering in service of a world in which there is no more suffering. As a leftist, I know the winter as the time when demonstrations slow, as the time when people avoid conflict due to the cold. As a Christian, I know that when things slow is when we must be most active.
Activity is not necessarily flashy. The most important activities for us are often reading, training, quietly talking with those we know. It is about increasing our watchfulness, it is about making sure we have enough oil for our lamps. “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.” (Matt. 25:13)
Hold onto your present, prepare for the future. The King is coming. Amen.
I saw a star, stabbed by a steeple,
Bleeding down on unheeding people
Heedless of their impending shock
When history tolls their twelve o’clock
And, utterly beyond their ken,
Brings Peace on Earth, Goodwill to Men.