An amazingly long time ago, in high school, I began learning guitar. For us starry-eyed “boomers” there were a number of folk songs that were relatively simple chord-wise so could be learned quickly—and had social messages: “ Where have all the flowers gone,” “Blowing in the wind.” One I loved playing (three easy chords) was ”I can see a new day, a new day soon to be/where the storm clouds are all past/ and the sun shines on a world that is free…”
It was, like our Advent scriptures, a presentation of a vision. And the Hebrew scriptures, especially the prophets and the psalms, are replete with hopes rendered in concrete images. The wolf shall be the guest of the lamb—or as the painter Rousseau rendered the Peaceable Kingdom—a host of God’s creatures, predator and prey, lying serenely together, surrounded by verdant jungle. More images: valleys made high and mountains made low, the crooked ways straight. The people streaming from East and West to God’s holy mountain, the shining city and the bountiful feast of rich foods and choice wines.
“Blessed are the eyes that see what you see….many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, but did not see it, and hear what you hear, but did not hear it.” (Luke 10:24)
Sometimes, in the increasing toxicity of the world we inhabit today, we’re tempted to close our eyes to all but the small safe havens we’ve built for ourselves, or to surrender to the endless battering from a world of troubles, and view the future as threatening darkness and use the present for simmering in resentment; abandon our capacity for envisioning peace and reconciliation, or the coming together of enemies—sheep and wolves, Palestinians and Israelis, Saudis and Yemenis, Republicans and Democrats….
But the truth is, we can and must see. Our widening, deepening vision is a gift and task of our Baptism and our Dominican profession. We see the weapons, the rubble, the starvation, the pollution and ruination of earth. But our Christian vision allows us the perspective of hope, that capacity to see beyond, to see more deeply, and recognize that even now, as we wait, Christ comes to us, among us, through us, in simple shimmerings of Incarnation and Redemption—small graces in words and actions of love and mercy, everyday kindnesses, contrition and forgiveness, a bandaid, a kleenex. We view life with “gospel-tinted lenses.” And we announce the Good News.
Advent is longing and yearning, hunger and thirst, darkness expecting sunrise, the mystery of “already and not yet.” A Holy Interim between the First Pentecost and Last Advent, the dawning of creation and the dawning of New Creation. Advent bids us to preach God’s promised future, and to bring hope and joy to voice, even as we contemplate our own weak faith and eroding patience. Advent bids us not to turn away from the world but to trust that light can be found there, and to stand firm in our common human struggle for truth, take it to heart, and preach it from the housetops.
Come Lord Jesus, come Compassionate Lover, come, Spirit who makes all things new. Come, be incarnate in us, among us and through us, stir up our hearts, prepare the feast, sing the song of salvation, and shine through our expectant faces as we wait the day when “kindness and truth shall meet, justice and peace will kiss.” When sorrow’s chains are broken, and the sun shines on a world that is free.