*(Message from 12.04.2016 Worship Gathering that goes with the weekly Lectionary readings: Isaiah 11:1-10, Psalm 73:1-7, 18-19, Romans 15:4-13, Matthew 3:1-12 )
Advent is the season that leads to Christmas. It is a season of longing. It connects the present day pilgrim with the longings and journey of those who traveled life’s roads before. Across decades, centuries, and millennia, humans are united in our universal longings for deliverance from the things that hold us down and deliverance to the deeper life. Advent reminds us that God cares about the longings of all of his children.
In 2016 the world is full of longing.
for the bombs to stop falling
for the clouds of misogyny to break.
for children to be safe from bullets and from fear
for black lives to matter + the assault on black lives to end.
for refugees to be able to return home or find a new one.
for immigrants to be reconnected with their families separated by borders and antiquated immigration policies.
for a community to belong to - that sees us and knows us.
for freedom from the prejudices of others
for food to feed our children
for shelter from nature’s elements + the whims of the powerful
for rest from the stress and constant running on the wheel
for decency and respect to break forth
for food and water not polluted with poison
for health care for the vulnerable and those we love
to feel peace in the midst of uncertainty
for opportunities to work for dignified wages
for our kids to find their way in life
to know our place and our value
to feel connected to God and to heal from our wounds
to recover our losses and to have enough.
Most of these particular longings can be boiled down to more basic longings: Love, safety, dignity, connection, peace, home, joy, grounding. While these deeper longings may be concealed in more urgent and felt needs, they are the river of human longing that are likely universal.
It turns out that our human longings are far more universal and unifying than our beliefs.
Most of our arguments are about beliefs or tactics. A person with different beliefs may share your longings. A person with different tactics likely employs these tactics on behalf of similar desires. While we may have certain strong beliefs and hold to many different strategies for winning at life, the human longings we hold these beliefs and employ these strategies in service of, are nearly always the same.
Fear does funny things to our longings - fear that the obstacles are so great and the opportunities so few that our longings are unattainable. People who lose hope in reasonable measures will turn to unreasonable measures and everyone will suffer. Without hope, our longings turn angry and violent and hateful, and great evils are born.
When hope recedes the tides of violence + war rise.
…the desire for safety becomes fear of our “enemies”
… our desire to feed and provide for our family becomes hoarding, until our leftovers rot while our neighbors go hungry
…the longing for enough becomes the oppression of others through dehumanizing work environments and slaveries of all sort.
…the need for our family to have security causes us to bomb other families around the world and blinds us to the plight of refugees.
…the need to have dignity and respect becomes fear and rage when treated with only equal rights.
… my need to find my place and my value falls into narcism and corrodes the development of empathy.
Perhaps if we could reconnect with our shared longings we would find the essential key for a new future as humans.
Perhaps if we could see that -
as long as any are oppressed,
as long as any are hungry,
as long as any are forgotten,
as long as some have so much and others have so little,
as long as any lack heath care and safety
- As long as any of these conditions exist, our shared world will continue to be a place of unnecessary suffering and reactive violence.
Wealth cannot shield us from our longings - In fact, greed is evidence that even with all our excess, scarcity still rules our hearts and we have not yet been delivered TO life.
This is the hope of Advent. Advent reminds us that underneath all the darkness that is so ugly + evil, we are united in these longings for life + light + love. From the dead stump of a fallen tree (Isaiah 11) - a tree the symbolizes all our longings and hopes as a family or tribe or species - a new shoot will grow.
Everything broken will be restored.
All losses will be repaid.
All things will be set right.
There will be a time when wolves and lambs can together find flourishing. A time when people will no longer hurt of destroy because they will come to know the Love of God. A time when people will live in harmony with each other (Romans 15), with all voices surrendering their dominance so that the shared voice of the community can be heard. And a time when people repent of their fear + scarcity + blame and make a straight path of all have enough (Matthew 3). The longing of advent is that this time will come soon.
Perhaps in our shared longings we can find the building blocks for connection and peace in our divided and partisan world. When we see our connection with the rest of humanity and realize all that we have in common, maybe we will see a foundation for shared peace and flourishing. If we can see all those around us, even those with different beliefs and tactics, as fellow humans with the same deep longings, maybe our fear will lesson and our empathy will increase. And maybe if this happens, the world can be a little better for everyone in our lifetime.
May the light of Christ illuminate the path for each of us to confront all that is dark in us and in our world around.
As we live today in an empire of unequal justice, May our celebration, remind us of the birth of Jesus - a middle-eastern refugee who fled his country (Palestine) to find political asylum from the empire of his day.
And May we stand with our friends, and neighbors and enemies in our common longings that the justice of heaven would quickly arrive in our world for all. Amen.
What do you longings would you add to the list?
Where are you waiting for “something to give?”
How have you seen longings become corrupted?
What would you add to the conversation?