Second Sunday of Advent – Year C
December 6, 2009
Let us pray: O God, who invites us to restless hope and promise, and who promises the peace that passes understanding – may we have each in their measure, as we strive to be your people – waiting with pregnant expectation and urgently calling ourselves and those around us not to wait too long, before it is too late. May these words be ones which hold before us this double, connected tension – to be your people, resting in your presence, waiting for you to guide our thoughts and actions, and living out your call as ones who tell the story of rough places made level and winding paths made straight. Amen.
Last week, those who gathered here for worship at Yellowknife United Church were introduced to Roberta – a tree-hugging, peace marching, protest attending young woman of twenty-something years. Roberta is a connected young woman – connected to causes that she supports with her energy and her money. She is also connected with a faith community – because her faith is a deep basis for the many causes she supports. Her connection with a faith community is mostly what she shares with her neo-conservative parents whose world-view is very different from hers, except for the faith community connection. However the underlying disagreements are not ones of great conflict, but rather ones that are lived out in respectful differences of opinion. Roberta's views and those of her parents are ones that describe a limit between which the truth can be found. They all realise this even though it is hard for each of them to admit. Roberta, like most twenty-somethings is also connected through her cell phone and her virtual community with her people, as she calls them.
We left her on the first Sunday of Advent reflecting on the image of embodied hope that the anticipated Christmas birth held for her. She was both encouraged and discouraged by the hope embodied in a child. She knew how hopeful it was to have a child, how much hope was contained within all that a child would encounter in life in the world, and how fragile things could be for children near and far. Last week's story ended with thes words: And so her Advent journey began – a journey of hope embodied in the image of a child. To be continued.
All week, Roberta had not been able to let that image of embodied hope go. It had become so important for her to hold an infant in her mind as a symbol of both the need to keep on working for all the causes she supported with both her time and her money, and the hope it demonstrated that the world was indeed a good place to be, and that lives were worth living and bringing into the world.
She also could not let go of the resolve that image created in her, to make sure that the hope embodied in a child could be lived out in real life. All week she carried both the hope and the pain within her – thinking about the plight of children in places all around the world. It didn't matter whether it was her own community or some community in a country half way around the world, she could always find examples of children who were bearing the brunt of the worst things that society had to offer. And so, even though she did not have children of her own, she felt, especially from being with her friends who did have young children, that she at least had an idea of how important it was to do everything possible to make the world better for the children.
But that was only part of what her week had been about. She had been gearing up for the Copenhagen Climate Conference for many months now. Her activism had made sure of that. Long before the average person had even heard about the climate change talks scheduled for December, she had been at planning meetings, had been involved in Facebook organised flash mob demonstrations aimed at alerting both elected government officials and local citizens to the perils of human caused changes to the global climate.
So, as the second Sunday of advent approached she had the dual but connected image that combined her hope and desire that the Copenhagen talks would actually end with an agreement among the nations of the world to do something constructive and planet saving and the expectant hope that the birth of a child carried with it. After all, it wasn't for her that the Copenhagen talks were so important, it was for the children who were coming after her.
Roberta also knew that the theme of the second Sunday of Advent was Peace. Peace was such a slippery concept for her these days. She could definitely relate to the idea of slowing down, finding quiet time, so that she was not too overwhelmed by all the pain that could easily do just that, especially for someone like her who had such a cause supporting, justice seeking, world view. But she also knew that there was a part of that kind of slow-down, forget about the world, shut things out kind of peace that was just not realistic. That was not real peace, it was a sort of run away and hide kind of peace, and she wasn't really all that interested in that sort of relationship with the world. In her mind, too many people were already doing that with respect to the issues posed by climate change. Forget about it and it will go away. Let go and let God, was their mantra, without any acceptance of the excesses that modern society was allowing to happen to make things so bad. Let go and let God, was a good thing in right measure, but she also knew that letting God was an invitation to use the gifts God had given her to do the work God wanted her to do. There were many things that had to be entrusted to God, but there were also many things that God had entrusted with us – to care for the world, to care for each other, to be stewards of the gifts God the creator had already given us.
So, it was a restless peace that Roberta brought to the second week of Advent. She pined for the opportunity to just be in God's presence for a time – and she knew that was a necessary and important part of her spiritual well-being, but she also knew there were so many causes in which she vested her hope and her energy. She wanted so badly to feel that peace for the planet could be an outcome of the Copenhagen agreements, that countries would look beyond their own selfish needs and desires and take a long-term view, or at least a view that was focused on more than just what an agreement would do to address selfish national concerns and increase national wealth. Unfortunately, in her mind, too many short term perspectives had been taken in the past to the point where what had been a do-able long term solution was now a very fragile short term problem. She was also very saddened to hear her elected leaders wanting equality among developing and developed nations with respect to the amount of greenhouse gas emission that an agreement would enforce. Where was their responsibility as world citizens? Did they not know the level of injustice that had been present among nations for so many decades. It was always so easy to play the justice card when we were the ones supposedly being treated unjustly without every admitting the amount of injustice that had existed in the past. And so many of the developing nations were producing greenhouse gas to make products that would be used by western countries. It was so narrow minded to suggest that this was solely a problem for and about these struggling nations. It's our problem as a wealthy, greedy nation, as much as theirs and we all have a responsibility to see ourselves as being in this together – she had often said that herself and to others and had it been expressed by others in the meetings, and events she attended. Even so, everything that everyone – poor and rich nation alike – government body and individual citizens alike, was critically important if the hope embodied in a child was to be lived out in respect for creation, in being responsible stewards of the wonderful gift of creation that was such a gift from God.
Roberta really hoped there was enough time, and this thought added to her restlessness. But it did not distress her. She was at peace despite all of this. It wasn't restlessness instead of peace. It was restless peace. She didn't think that peace necessarily required her to go into a quiet room, sit and listen to gentle relaxing music. Not that she did not appreciate when that could happen. She knew the value of contemplative time. It's just that for her, contemplation could also happen without the quiet and the dark. She contemplated on her walk to work. She contemplated in the time before she fell asleep. She contemplated during the reflection time at worship. For Roberta peace was about inner peace, inner centredness, a feeling that the life she was living matched the life she wanted to live, a feeling that the path she was walking was a faithful path – a God directed path.
Hope and peace – her advent journey was now well underway with the expectant mixture of resolve and mystery that should be a part of this time. What would happen in Copenhagen? What would happen for her? To be continued. Amen.