We live today in a world of growing isolation, frantic activity, and desperate violence, where paradoxically, we find ourselves longing for both solitude and companionship, intimacy and community. Some of us may look back to times when life seemed to make sense and relationships were more certain. Whether or not such times ever existed, we nevertheless long today for relationships that acknowledge who we are and who we want to be. We want someone to hear us, to hear our hearts beating, to hear our deepest longings—even longings of which we dare not speak.- Sondra Higgins Matthaei
I came upon this quote this morning and it stirred me. Somehow, this time of year--the holidays, are always an uneasy time for me. On one hand, nothing gives me greater joy than spending time with friends and family and nothing gives me greater pleasure than giving gifts to people that I love (especially my wife, to whom I love to give gifts that she would never consider practical or prudent). On the other hand, no time of year (with the cold weather and rampant commercialism) better illuminates for us the divisions that exist between people. The poor are never more visible than during the holidays and yet most of us resign ourselves to token gifts and empty promises to do something during the coming year. During this Advent season as we celebrate Hope, Peace, Love, Joy and ultimately, Christ, I have been forced to confront in myself what's painfully obvious to opponents of the Christian faith: if we are a Christian people where's the HPLJ to celebrate?
Two answers that I have come to embrace for myself: 1) There's a lot more Hope, Peace, Love and Joy being enacted than I realize. Good things, or good works, or acts of mercy and kindness ARE taking place every day...in back alleys, in offices, in churches, in the inner city and in the suburbs. We have to look hard to find these events because as people we are often drawn to stare at death and destruction but more often we are distracted by the allure of the shiny, the new and the attainable "dream." I, for one, have wasted way to much time thinking about stuff that I want this holiday season and not enough time to celebrate the hope that comes from Jesus living in others. 2) Only a merciful God would make the promises of restoration and salvation to a people as flawed and horrible as we are. There is hope for peace on the earth because the kingdom of God is coming, because the kingdom of God is here. I have a lot of things I'd like to ask God about this, but my faith is strengthened by the evidence of hope and by the absence of it: we are always in need of more and the season of Advent reminds us that Christ is our hope.