Recently, I was asked if I thought our nation would heal after such an antagonistic campaign season. I had to think about that. I’ve heard calls for unity, for coming together…and that is all well and good. But, no, I don’t think we will heal from this season. I don’t think there is a recovery.
Recovery is defined as “a return to a normal state of health, mind, or strength.” I will take a guess that God has little interest in “returning” us anywhere. If that is what we are waiting for – to be returned to some idealized state of well-being – we misunderstand the power and mystery of this holy season of Advent.
God did not bundle up in our flesh, walk this earth, teach us, eat with us, die in front of us, and be resurrected for the purpose of giving us a “return to a normal state of health, mind, or strength.” No, the Word became flesh for our transformation, not our recovery. This is not just a play on words. This gets to a deep truth of our faith. Jesus was not simply returned to life after the crucifixion. He was resurrected! Transformed into a life that was and is and will be forever. That is a promise for us today.
Life with Christ is an exercise in transformation right now. We have received grace upon grace right now. We are the children of God right now. We’re not just waiting for heaven in the sweet by and by, we are waiting for transformation right now. We are practicing for transformation right now. Christ makes us different than we were before.
Sometimes, Christians miss that point. We put our attention on protecting our beliefs rather than living our faith. That’s a human thing to do. We put our attention on clenching our fists around our stuff and our rights, rather than stretching our hands out to embrace and serve others. That is a human thing to do. We make our faith about life after death rather than growing the fruits of the spirit in the here and now. That’s a human thing to do. We find more passion in enforcing our rules and our moral codes on the rest of the world than in basking in the mysterious grace of “I will draw all people to myself.” (John 12:32) That is a human thing to do.
But, as Brian McLaren reminds us in “We Make the Road by Walking,” “Jesus’ birth signals the beginning of the end for the dark night of fear, hostility, violence and greed that has descended on our world. Jesus’ birth signals the start of a new day, a new way, a new understanding of what it means to be alive.”
That’s why we wait. That’s why we hope. That’s why we work. We live in a new day and we must share it with others. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor."
People, it's Advent, and we have work to do!