I have long been fascinated by how the lectionary texts and focus of the Christian Year are so often pertinent to current events. It is often a gift living in the Northern Hemisphere and in the United States to read the lessons during Epiphany that often refer to light. This comes at a time when we often experience the harhest and darkest of winter.
Perhaps it requires a sensitive ear or spirituality attuned to the world about us, but the texts are often pertinent to the socio-political realm as well. Of course the primary focus of Advent is on the coming of the Lord. However the four Sundays of Advent and especially the Old Testament texts speak of Hope, Peace, Love and Joy. The world desperately needs to experience these realities.
Clearly the crises and conflicts across and around the world cry out for hope, for peace, and exemplify a deep and anguishing lack of both love and joy.
A few years ago the wives of two of my friends were pregnant. One was carrying her third child; the other her first. As I listened to those two fathers to be, there was an appreciable distinction in their attitudes. The one awaiting number three was definitely expectant. For him and his family life went on with little noticeable change. There was a calm assurance that all would be well in due time. Care was taken with diet and lifestyle and regular doctor visits were made. But confident expectation was the characteristic most evident.
The couple expecting their first child were plainly and openly anxious. There was an element of fear at times. Uncertainty was dominant.
There is a significant difference between expectation and anxiety.
Our world, whether in Northern Ireland, the United States, India or Pakistan, Iraq or Afghanistan or anywhere else is marked by both anxiety and expectation. It is noteworthy that the message of the angels in Luke’s Gospel urge: “Do not be afraid, behold there is Good News of great Joy” In other words, do not be anxious. Expect goodness from the God of our fathers and mothers, the King of the universe.
That is the message of Advent. It is a message we need to affirm and share with those all around us. There is hope, there is love, there can be peace and there will be joy. Therefore whether in war, under terrorist threats, political conflict or economic failures, our hope is in the Lord.
I find great comfort in the fact that we need not be anxious nor afraid. The Christian faith asserts: be hopeful and expectant. The Good News of Isaiah 40:1-5, which incidentally was the text for Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech, is good news for all people.