20 November 2020

What Are We Waiting For?

November is the start of a season in which we strive to come together, as families, communities, faiths, and nations. For Catholics and some Protestants, this is the season of Advent, a time when they wait expectantly for the symbolic coming of Christ. For Hindus, Jains, and Sikhs, this is the season in which Diwali celebrates the "victory of light over darkness, good over evil, and knowledge over ignorance." For Americans, this is the season of Thanksgiving, when we celebrate generosity and sharing. In Britain, they celebrate Guy Fawkes Night near the start of the month as a "joyful day of deliverance" from terrorism and strife. For all nations, November 11 is Armistice Day, celebrating peace and remembering the sacrifice it took to end the first World War. In many ways, this is the season that celebrates Christ's dream for humanity.

Every Diwali, I think about the first chapter of James. James reminds us that God is the "Father of Lights" who gives "every good and perfect gift" (1:17). Wisdom is the gift of God and Truth is God's Word (1:5,18). Jesus tells us that we are to live this Word of Truth, not simply preach it. In Matthew 5:14-16 he tells his followers, "you are the light of the world... let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds."

Thanksgiving reminds me of the generosity of Abraham and how it stood in contrast to the hostility of the people of Sodom. In Genesis 18, Abraham receives three visitors. He tells his wife to get three seahs of flour and bake bread for them while he draws water for them. Three seahs is about 36 pounds or 16 kilograms. He gives them not just a meal, but enough food to sustain them for their trip. In Genesis 19, Abraham's brother, Lot, narrowly saves two of this same trio from being brutalized by the people of Sodom.

Finally, for Armistice Day, I think of the book of Revelation. In John's vision, the armies of God do not fight. They gather to praise God who redeems them and saves them from their enemies. Not once in the entire book does any Christian take up arms. The way of Jesus is the way of peace. Just like the three children who stood up to their king in Daniel 3 proudly proclaimed, "If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from your hand, but even if he does not... we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up" (3:17-18).

God gives wisdom and truth. Those who live God's way are a light to the world, marked by their generosity, kindness, wisdom, and commitment to peace. These people are Christians whether they call themselves that or not, for they bear the fruits of the Spirit of God. During this time of Advent, we wait for the coming of our redeemer, the one who will bring peace to our world. This is the time when we do the work of John the Baptist and make straight his way.

This is the time when we put aside our differences, be generous, provide for our neighbors that none may go hungry this winter. This is the time when we train ourselves for empathy and compassion to recognize the same spirit in others which dwells in us so that we may work together to establish and maintain peace. We do not simply wait expectantly for our redeemer, we go prepare the way for him in anticipation of the start of next year when we begin anew the great work of God.

Peace be with you.

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