Again we are here. Again grieving victims. Again horrified by violence. Again attempting, in vain, to parse the difference between an “act of terror” and a “mass shooting” (for the record, both are terrifying and neither is tolerable). Again folks are trotting out tired lines and lining up behind the same tiresome positions. Sound bite answers. Again. Rush to judgment. Again.
How will people of faith respond? By parroting political platitudes? Again? By placing our trust in the loudest talking head? Again? By drawing theological and religious lines in the quicksand of “us” and “them?” Again? By arguing over the merits of prayer versus action? Again.
Advent is here. Again we invoke the coming of Emmanuel, the God who is with us. Again we hear John the Baptizer calling: “Prepare the way of the Lord” by repenting and bearing fruit. Again the faithful light candles. Hope. Peace. Joy. Love. And again the world awaits the fleshing out of said hope, peace, joy, and love.
Albert Einstein once said that “it is the theory which decides what we can observe.” In this I hear an echo of Jesus, who warned that those who think they see can, in truth, be most blind. What do we see as we look at this world that God so loves? What is the theory that decides what we observe? Is it a belief in “us” versus “them?” Theological dualism? Chaos theory? The presupposition that nothing will ever change? The view that all is hopeless and we are helpless? Or are we just faithful and hopeful and bold enough to see the world through the lens of Advent? Again.
Advent. God is with us. Always. Above and in and through all things. To people of faith everywhere, I say that it is certainly time to heed the call of John and repent; to have, as Dallas Willard clarified that word, “a new thought about our thinking.” Let us be done with the theories of the day. They have failed us. Again. Observe the grief, violence, terror, and lazy tolerance of the intolerable. And, then, let us think again. See again. And act anew. Emmanuel comes. Again.
Advent speaks the truth: Hope does overcome hopelessness. Again. Peace will break forth. Again. Joy is promised. Again. And love wins. Always. And just when will the world be done with the “again” of violence, grief, and fear? When, and as, people of faith turn attention and energies to seeking God first, listening to the Spirit’s voice, and living out the teachings of Christ.
Does this mean we must pray? Absolutely! Let us pray. Again. And always. Pray for this world God so loves. Pray for grieving peoples everywhere and at all times. Pray for justice. Pray for wisdom. Pray for the coming of Emmanuel in us. And be absolutely certain of this: prayer, if it is prayer at all, will be fleshed out in action. Again.
Pray and take action. Be compassion in the flesh. Act justly. Walk wisely in the world. Speak the word of life boldly. Employ body, mind, heart, and soul in the service of God-with-us. Be the hope, peace, joy, and love the world so deeply needs. Prepare the way of the Lord by being Christ’s body. Again.
Christ be born in us. Again. Please.